University ranking Germany: The best universities in Germany

You have no plan where you should study? A university ranking can make your decision easier. We took a close look at the best-known university rankings and tell you which the best universities are in Germany. We also explain how such a ranking of universities comes about and what the results mean for you personally.

University ranking Germany

What does a university ranking say?

A so -called university ranking is simply a ranking list that distinguishes the best universities in Germany. The university ranking originated in the Anglo-American region. In the meantime, a whole series of “Best-Un-Un-in-Germany” lists in the media is also circulating in this country. Some of them are international, others are limited to the German university landscape. But depending on the university ranking, very different universities often occupy the top positions.

The question is obviously not quite as easy to answer which is the best of the universities in Germany. No wonder, because every university ranking takes into account different criteria and data sources: sometimes scientific publications are counted, professors or students interviewed. Still other rankings take into account the equipment and the financial situation of the universities. But which university ranking for Germany is now the most important or best?

The best universities in Germany: summary of the university rankings?

Each university ranking sets different focal points and puts different aspects in the foreground. We have therefore collected the most famous rankings for “best universities in Germany” and summarized them into a single list. The university ranking for Germany in this way has a broader database. This means that it takes more and more different aspects into account than every single university ranking. This draws a more comprehensive picture of the quality of the universities.

But be careful: A good place in the university ranking for Germany does not have to mean that the respective university is also the best for you! Because maybe personally, completely different criteria are important for you than those that depict the university ranking. In general, you should not blind any university ranking for Germany. Always make sure how the university ranking came about and which criteria are taken into account.

So that you can better assess whether the results of the university Germany ranking are personally relevant for you, we will introduce you to the methods and criteria of the individual university ranking below.

1st place: LMU Munich

The summary university ranking for Germany is led by the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich. With more than 50,000 students, the officially “best” among the universities in Germany is also the second largest. The LMU Munich offers a wide range of courses that ranges from A for English to Z for dentistry. There is only one technical faculty at the LMU Munich.

2nd place: TU Munich

No problem, because the Technical University of Munich has made it to second place in the universities of Germany ranking. With currently 173 courses, the TU Munich offers a very differentiated range of technical, natural and social science and medical subjects. The Elite University also enjoys an excellent reputation outside of Germany’s borders: Around every third of the more than 41,000 students come from abroad.

3rd place: University of Heidelberg

The university ranking for Germany is occupied by the renowned Ruprecht-Karls University in Heidelberg. With its 12 faculties, it offers a wide range of courses that covers the most important subject groups from medicine to social and humanities to natural sciences and mathematics.

What are the most famous university rankings for Germany?

For our “Best University-in-Germany” list, we have taken into account 5 well-known rankings that will meet you again and again in newspapers and the Internet. Three of them – the Shanghai Uni Ranking, the Times Ranking and the QS World University Ranking – are internationally and judge the German universities in a global comparison. The che ranking and the Wirtschaftswoche University Ranking for Germany are among the most important rankings at the national level.

Shanghai Uni Ranking

Methods and criteria

The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU for short) is better known as “Shanghai Uni Ranking”. It has been created by the Shanghaier Jiaotong University since 2003. For the ranking of the universities, a team of researchers checks over 1,300 selected universities worldwide every year, 800 of which are included in the university ranking. Only the first 100 institutions receive fixed places. The remaining 700 are summarized in groups (101 – 150, 151 – 200, etc.).

For the university ranking, the Shanghai Uni Ranking takes 4 categories that are weighted as follows:

  • Quality of training: 10 %
  • Quality of the scientific staff: 40 %
  • Research: 40 %
  • Per capita performance: 10 %
  • The “quality of the training” is based on the number of graduates who have won a Nobel Prize or a field medal.

For the “quality of the scientific staff”, the Shanghai Uni Ranking takes into account the number of researchers currently employed at the respective university with Nobel Prize or Fields Medal. In addition, scientists are counted, which are quoted a lot in specialist journals.

The “research performance” is measured on the basis of the specialist articles that appear in the scientific database “Web of Science” and / or published in the journals “Nature” and “Science”.

The “per capita performance” relates the other 3 categories to the size of the university. Overall, the Shanghai University Ranking focuses heavily on research – and here primarily on the natural sciences. Data on the quality of the teaching or the satisfaction of the students are not collected.

The first places of the Shanghai Uni Ranking regularly occupy American universities such as the University of Harvard. With the University of Heidelberg, the TU Munich, the LMU Munich and the University of Bonn, 4 German universities made it under the top 100 in 2021.

Times University Ranking
Methods and criteria

The university ranking of the British magazine “Times” is also known as “The Ranking”. The universities in Germany are also assessed in an international comparison in this ranking. The Times University Ranking is based on 5 categories that are weighted as follows:

  • Teaching: 30 %
  • Research: 30 %
  • Scientific citations: 30 %
  • International orientation: 7.5 %
  • Third -party funds (funding from business): 2.5 %

These 5 categories are assessed based on a total of 13 criteria. For example, a reputation survey among scientists is included in the evaluation of “teaching” and “research”. But “hard data” such as the numerical ratio between students and teachers are also taken into account. According to the “Scopus” database, scientific citations by researchers are of great importance.

Overall, the Times university ranking is somewhat more balanced compared to the Shanghai Uni ranking because the quality of teaching is more important in the evaluation.

Large, well-known institutions from the USA and Great Britain regularly rank among the front runners in the Times university ranking. After all, 7 universities in Germany are among the top 100 in the ranking. The LMU Munich, the TU Munich and the University of Heidelberg have once again made it to the top ranks, while the HU Berlin takes fourth place in the Germany ranking.

QS World University Rankings
methods and criteria

The QS World University Ranking is published by the American magazine U.S. News & World Report and is very popular, especially in the USA. Around 900 universities are included in the university ranking every year, of which the first 400 receive fixed rankings. The following 5 categories are evaluated:

  • International reputation: 40%
  • Reputation among employers: 10%
  • International orientation: 10%
  • Teaching (teacher-student ratio): 20%
    Research performance: 20%

A total of 50 percent of the QS university ranking is based on survey results among scientists and important employers. According to the authors of the study, this is the largest such survey in the world! With a total of 20 percent, the student-teacher ratio at the universities is also very important. The research performance – measured by citations in specialist journals – is weighted somewhat lower compared to the Shanghai and Times Uni Ranking.

Germany is not very prominently represented in the QS Uni Ranking: Only 3 universities made it into the top 100 in 2021. Once again, the Technical University of Munich, the LMU Munich and the University of Heidelberg were honored as the best universities in Germany. The HU Berlin and 8 other universities are among the top 200.

CHE Ranking
methods and criteria

The CHE ranking is probably the most well-known university ranking for Germany. It is published annually by the Center for Higher Education Development (CHE) in cooperation with the magazine ZEIT. The CHE university ranking takes into account more than 300 German universities and here in turn the 37 most popular subjects.

A special feature of the CHE university ranking for Germany is that it does not assess the universities globally, but subject-specifically. Because even the best of Germany’s universities can have their weaknesses and doesn’t have to be good in every subject. In addition, the CHE university ranking tries to collect as much different data as possible. The judgments of students and professors play a central role: around 150,000 students and more than 9,000 teachers are asked annually about their satisfaction at the place of study, their working conditions, the facilities at the universities and other important criteria. In addition, the CHE ranking of universities in Germany takes into account the publications of researchers and various statistical data such as the duration of studies.

On the website of the magazine ZEIT you can even tailor the university ranking to your personal interests and your department. You can choose which criteria are important to you. This is how you can find out which of the universities in Germany is best for you personally.

Wirtschaftswoche university ranking
methods and criteria

The German magazine Wirtschaftswoche surveys the image of the various universities among HR managers every year. More than 500 important employers are surveyed every year from which universities they prefer to recruit graduates. The focus is on economic and technical subjects. This creates a detailed picture of what the “best universities in Germany” are from the point of view of HR managers. The focus of the Wirtschaftswoche university ranking is therefore on the usability of the studies and not on the quality of the research.


What are the advantages and disadvantages of university ranking?

University rankings are highly respected nationally and internationally, but they are also repeatedly criticized. The ranking lists can be problematic:

False impression of objectivity: The rankings give the impression of objective facts, but in reality the selection and weighting of the individual criteria is always subjective.

Not differentiated enough: In a global ranking of universities in Germany, differences between the individual departments and subjects are ignored.

One-sided perspectives: Individual aspects are often in the foreground – such as scientific publications or the subjective opinions of employers.

Proponents of university rankings see the following advantages:

Transparency: A ranking of universities gives the public an insight into the scientific quality of the institutions.

Independent information: university rankings represent an independent view from the outside – in complete contrast to the self-portrayals of the universities in glossy brochures.

Promotion of competition: A ranking of universities in Germany creates an incentive for the individual universities to improve themselves.

How important are rankings when choosing a course?

You now have an overview of the best places to study in Germany according to the university ranking. But how useful are the rankings for you personally? It would certainly not be the right way to only rely on the results of a university ranking when choosing your place of study. But to give you a little orientation in the university jungle, you can take a look at a ranking of universities in Germany.

Think in advance which aspects are important to you personally! Would you like to score points with future employers with your degree? Then the results of the Wirtschaftswoche university ranking for Germany are particularly relevant for you. Or do you see your future in a research laboratory? Then you should better concentrate on the Shanghai Uni Ranking.

What else is important besides the ranking of universities in Germany?

In order to find the best one for you personally among the universities in Germany, these questions can also play a role:

Numerus Clausus: Which A-levels do you need at the respective location in order to have a realistic chance of getting a place at university?

Tuition fees: Are there tuition fees at your dream university and how high are they?

Focus of the university: For which departments is the university particularly well-known?

Focal points of the course: Small, unknown universities often have very specific focal points in certain subjects. Perhaps such a university is more interesting for you than the “best” among the universities in Germany according to the rankings?

Cost of living locally: Big cities can be an expensive place to live. In a small town you might pay less for rent, transport and leisure – with the same quality of life.

Social environment: Perhaps it is more important to you to study close to your family and friends than at an elite university?

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