Here are the top ten most prestigious universities in Germany

The Times Higher Education ranking released its 14th annual edition of the most reputable institutions in the world on Tuesday, revealing that a number of German universities are among the very best.

Here are the top ten most prestigious universities in Germany
University of Bonn. Photo: Deposit Photos.

The World University Rankings published by Times Higher Education (THE) showed that 20 German universities are currently among the 200 most prestigious in the world. Here’s a list of the top institutions in the country.

1. Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich (LMU)

LMU led the way in the THE ranking as Germany's highest placed institution, rated the 34th most reputable university in the world.

Located in the Bavarian capital, LMU dates back to 1472 and offers both German- and some English-language degree programmes. Its international student population boasts about 7,000 people from 125 countries, the largest number at any German university.

The institution has a total student body of more than 51,000. According to THE, it places an emphasis on the natural sciences such as biology and physics. But other top subjects are medicine and space science.

LMU also has a number of notable former professors and alumni, including Werner Heisenberg, playwright Bertolt Brecht and Pope Benedict XVI.

2. Technical University of Munich (TUM)

One of Europe’s leading universities, TUM prides itself on its entrepreneurial spirit and is most notable for its agricultural sciences and computer science programmes.

The institution, which placed 41st worldwide, offers both English and bilingual programmes and thus about 24% of its 40,000 students come from outside Germany.

TUM’s alumni not only include 18 Leibniz Prize winners and 13 Nobel laureates, they also live in 139 countries including China, the US, Brazil and Egypt.

3. Heidelberg University

Founded in 1386, Heidelberg University is the oldest of Germany's academic institutions and also one of the oldest surviving universities in the world. It has a sizable international student body, making up about 20 percent of its more than 30,000 pupils.

A few master’s degree programmes are taught in English at the institution, including courses in economics, international health and American studies.

Five German chancellors have attended Heidelberg – including Helmut Kohl, who oversaw German reunification – as well as influential thinkers like Hannah Arendt.

THE report that academics at Heidelberg have founded subdisciplines such as psychiatric genetics, environmental physics and modern sociology.

The Baden-Württemberg institute ranked 45th worldwide and its noted subjects are space science, neuroscience and physics.

4. Humboldt University of Berlin

The alma mater of influential thinkers like Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels placed 62nd worldwide, jumping up from 57th place in last year’s THE ranking.

It was one of eleven German universities deemed a “University of Excellence” in 2012.

Though the institution is held in high regard for its arts and humanities fields, it’s also known for its neuroscience and immunology programmes.

About one in every six students at Humboldt University comes from outside of Germany and the institution has a total of just over 32,000 students.

5. RWTH Aachen University

Established in 1870, RWTH University is located in the student town of Aachen in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Ranking at 79th place, the institution is attended by around 44,500 students, of whom about 8,500 are international.

In 2010, the university adopted a internationalization plan which aimed to promote the institution internationality in terms of its academics and teaching and research methods.

6. University of Freiburg


A post shared by Uni Freiburg (@unifreiburg) on Aug 30, 2017 at 4:10am PDT

Dating back to 1457, the University of Freiburg was founded by the Austrian Habsburg dynasty, and thus has a long tradition of academia.

Its star-studded list of former faculty and students include sociologist Max Weber, filmmaker Wim Wenders and Germany's first post-war Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer.

The fifth-oldest university in Germany, Freiburg has a long-standing tradition in teaching social sciences and the humanities. Though according to THE, it is still most famous for its natural sciences and engineering courses.

Considered an elite university in the country, Freiburg was rated 82nd worldwide, standing out as one of Europe’s top research institutions.

7. Free University of Berlin (Freie Universität) 

The youngest university among Germany's top ten, Freie Universität (FU) was established in 1948 at the beginning of the Cold War in West Berlin, due to the fact that Humboldt was located over in the Soviet-occupied East.

It ranked 88th worldwide in THE's 2018 list.

FU's four Nobel Prize-winning former professors came from diverse fields: literature, chemistry, economics and physics.

In 2007, seeking to take global cooperation to the next level, FU opened up seven international liaison offices in Beijing, Brussels, Cairo, Moscow, New Delhi, New York, and São Paulo.

According to the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, FU is the most popular destination in Germany for foreign scholars and leading researchers. About 20 percent of the school’s students are from abroad.

READ ALSO: These are Germany’s 11 best ‘young’ universities

8. Technical University of Berlin

Placing 92nd in the global THE ranking, the Technical University (TU) was founded in 1879.

It has a particular reputation for mechanical engineering and engineering management, as well as mathematics and chemistry.

TU Berlin also has a wealth of programmes on offer that according to THE specialize in the technical industry, such as process sciences, electrical engineering and transport systems.

Of its student population of just over 33,000, about 7,200 are foreign nationals.

9. University of Tübingen

University of Tübingen. Photo: DPA.

Located in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg in one of Germany's most iconic university towns, Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen is particularly known for its disciplines of theology and religion.

But one of its most notable alumni is astronomer Johannes Kepler. Neuropathologist Alois Alzheimer – for whom the chronic neurodegenerative disease is named – also studied there, as did philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

The university has partnerships with educational institutions in 62 countries across the globe, particularly in North America, Asia and Latin America.

It was rated 94th worldwide.

10. University of Bonn

This Rhineland university in the former West German capital and birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven ranked 100th globally, up from 113th last year. Philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche both took courses here.

Of a total study body of around 35,600 students, 4,000 are not German nationals.

Founded almost 200 years ago during the Age of Enlightenment, University of Bonn's subject strengths according to THE are mathematics, physics, astronomy, economics, biosciences, and philosophy.

SEE ALSO: These German universities are best at landing you a job

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Seven quirky things German parents do while raising their kids

It's common to romanticize the parenting techniques of other countries, but some tendencies of German Eltern can leave foreigners utterly confused.

Seven quirky things German parents do while raising their kids
File photo: DPA.

For full disclosure, I spent my first year in Germany as an au pair for a lovely German family in Berlin, so I often acted as a fly on the wall observing various German parents.

And while I could recognize many of their methods from my own American upbringing, there were certain rituals that gave me a bit of culture shock.

1. The vast amount of strange contraptions to transport little ones

Photo: DPA

Germans certainly can get creative when it comes to keeping their youngsters in tow. The precarious-looking buggies they have strapped to the front or back of their bikes still give me anxiety as I watch parents speed along busy city streets.

READ ALSO: An American parent in Germany, or how I learned to love the power tools

These surely must be safety risks? But alas I doubt police keep records of Fahrradanhänger-related injuries, so I cannot provide an answer.

2. Letting them play outside in freezing, awful weather

Perhaps this is just the impression of someone who grew up in warmer climates, but seeing German kids clambering around on playgrounds amid subzero temperatures and howling winds was quite a shock to me.

But parents here abide by the German saying: Es gibt kein schlechtes Wetter, es gibt nur falsche Kleidung. There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

3. Impractical snow suits

Photo: DPA.

But despite what the Germans say about bad clothing, they apparently haven’t yet realized how awful and impractical those adorable one-piece snowsuits are. The target demographic for this garment – toddlers – are the worst choice for handling its fundamental restraints because they simply haven’t yet mastered bladder control. And still, come winter, this outfit is ubiquitous around schools and parks.

As soon as you hear that little desperate plea of ich muss pullern – I have to pee – you know it’s already a race to find the loo, and then you also have to unzip the snowsuit and take out the child’s arms before they can finally relieve themselves. Spoiler alert: that snowsuit often loses in the end and has to make a trip into the washer.

4. School ‘bags’ for their first day

Kids carrying their “school bags” in Dresden. Photo: DPA.

Honestly, I’m a bit more jealous of this ritual than baffled by it. Going off to that first day of Grundschule (primary school) is a much bigger deal in Germany than I remember it being for me in the US, and it’s tradition to give kids a Schultüte – school bag – to celebrate.

But the confusing thing about this “bag” is that it’s not actually any sort of bag or backpack as the name suggests, but rather a colourful cone filled with sweets and goodies.

SEE ALSO: Super cute things German kids do at primary school

5. Reading them very violent stories

Stories from the classic book Struwwelpeter. Photo: Peter/Flickr Creative Commons.

The first time I read the original German Brothers’ Grimm stories to the children I was babysitting, I found myself trying to censor the content. Especially when the kids asked me to translate the stories into English, I wondered whether that also should mean translating them through my American sensibilities.

From Hansel and Gretel being outright abandoned by their parents – rather than simply lost in the woods – to Snow White’s wicked queen being forced to dance herself to death, I struggled with reading these disturbing tales to such impressionable young minds.

And another German classic, Der Struwwelpeter, is no better. In it, one girl accidentally lights herself on fire and burns to death, a boy has his thumbs cut off with scissors, and another boy starves himself to death.

I’ll take the happy Disney endings instead, thank you.

SEE ALSO: Eight times Disney sugar-coated Germany’s cruel kids’ tales

6. Eating lunch exactly at noon

I suppose this one is just about Germans taking their term for lunch literally – Mittagessen literally means “noon meal”. At least it gives children some sense of a structured routine during the day.

Of course, getting kids to actually sit down right at noon is another story.

But the habit even seems to stick for adults, as you may notice with your German co-workers.

7. Not teaching them to read until age six

At least in the schools I attended in the US, it seemed there was a big push to get kids reading before age five and kindergarten.

But in Germany reading seems to be saved for when they first enter Grundschule at age six, with Kitas and Kindergartens careful not to focus too much on academics before then.

Still, getting a later start doesn’t seem to be having a negative impact: The latest PISA school performance report defined Germany as having a high share of “top performers” in reading.

8. Letting kids play near or with fireworks

Okay so this little one is still too young for even Germans to entrust with these fireworks, but the fact that this photo exists says something. Photo: DPA.

One of my closest German friend’s favourite childhood memories is setting off fireworks on New Year’s Eve. And now that she lives in the US where purchasing these explosive devices is more restrictive in certain regions, she’s especially excited to return to Germany to watch things explode.

I was taken aback here how casually these pyrotechnics are sold in abundance at supermarkets. And Germany even has a special classification of lower-risk fireworks for kids that can be purchased over the age of 12.

But perhaps the fact that Germans are comfortable with this – and not enough fingers go missing around the holidays for them to want to change things – reveals more about American parenting habits: we’re a bit too cautious.

So maybe it’s better to stand back a bit, let them launch explosives into the freezing air while wearing their snowsuits, and trust that kids have a little more instinctive common sense than we give them credit for.

A version of this article originally ran on March 20th, 2017.