Berlin: Knowledge metropolis

Universities, business and science locations, technology start-ups, and an increasing number of international high-tech corporations are finding their way to Berlin. The German capital is becoming a pan-European knowledge metropolis and a driver of socio-economic progress. Innovation made in Berlin could become an export hit. This is demonstrated by the latest settlements and tech hubs.

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Berlin's future belongs to the knowledge society

As Germany's largest university city with a diverse scientific landscape, Berlin not only offers a high density of research and development institutions, but at the same time professional development opportunities. In this article, we take a brief look at the 43 public and private universities and analyse how housing for almost 200,000 students and young professionals is being created in the nucleus of the universities. 

Diverse and great

For quite some time now, Berlin has been one of the most diverse and largest science locations in Europe. For years, the number of students continues to grow significantly. And this year, too, the figures from the Berlin-Brandenburg Statistics Office show a renewed increase. In 2018/19, about 192,000 people studied in Berlin, in 2019/20 there were already about 196,000 people and in 2020/21 already about 200,000 at one of eleven state universities, 30 recognized private universities and two denominational universities. 

Studying in Berlin may be a stopover for many thousands of students. But many are here to stay. For Berlin's increasingly important technology orientation, these young brainworkers are not only appreciated, but extremely important. Whether it's pharmaceuticals, the process industry, consulting and auditing, one of the many internationally renowned large law firms or IT: they all enjoy recruiting in Berlin.    

Universities 2020 Berlin Brandenburg Berlin und Brandenburg
Students in the winter semester 2020/2 199 421 50 615 250 036
of which      
Universities 127 244 35 900 163 144
Art Colleges 5 949   5 949
Universities of Applied Sciences 65 100 13 134 78 234
Colleges of Administration 1 128 1 581 2 709
Quelle: Amt für Statistik Berlin-Brandenburg

Quantity and quality!

At the four largest universities in Berlin alone, the HU, FU, TU and UdK, 100,000 people, a fifth of whom are from all over the world, are enrolled in 700 different courses of study. In addition, there are about 20,000 people who teach and conduct research at these renowned universities. 

It is not only the number of students that distinguishes Berlin, but also the quality of the universities. Of the top 10 German universities, 3 can be found in Berlin. 

Among them are  

Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin:

The Charité is one of the largest university hospitals in Europe. Here, doctors and scientists research and teach at an international level. More than half of Germany's Nobel Prize winners in medicine and physiology are from the Charité. Together, Freie Universität Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin are the sponsors of Charité.

The Free University of Berlin:

Founded in 1948 in the southwestern part of Berlin and focused on the humanities and social sciences, the natural sciences and medicine. Also unique in Germany are the central institutes for North America, Eastern Europe and Latin America.  Freie Universität Berlin has received awards and funding in the Excellence Competition of the German federal and state governments for its future concept of an "International Network University," three clusters of excellence, and seven graduate schools.

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin:

Founded some 200 years ago, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin in Berlin-Mitte has a colorful history. It covers the humanities, social and cultural sciences, as well as human medicine and agricultural sciences. In addition, there are the institutes of mathematics and natural sciences, in cooperation with technology-oriented companies. The Humboldt University was also awarded in the Excellence Initiative and runs two clusters of excellence, as well as two graduate schools in cooperation with the Free University.

Towards the top

Research, hundreds of degree programs, outstanding universities and internationally recognized business and science locations: Is there any doubt that Berlin's future lies in the knowledge society? Everyone knows: Knowledge is the engine of socio-economic progress, global competitiveness and technological innovation - and in Berlin, more than half of the workforce is highly qualified. Across Germany, this is the largest share among metropolises and metropolitan areas. Thus, Berlin has everything needed to take a top position not only in Germany, because in addition to pure science and an increasing number of international and attractive employers, young people can live here unfettered and free their creative, intellectual and urban mindset. This combination is expressed in rising student numbers:

Shift from hip to brain

After the first phase of Berlin's transformation from the former time of the Berlin Wall to a hip cultural metropolis, the direction of the next decades is becoming apparent. Defining a meaningful expression for the new German capital is not easy. Unlike a Silicon Valley, a car city or a purely university-based region, all stakeholders come together in Berlin. Automotive, pharma, consulting, fashion, digital or literature and art and culture in every sense. Berlin's transformation is overarching and thus sustainable and innovative. Industries benefit from each other and generate driving forces that would have been almost inconceivable just a few years ago.    

It is no wonder, then, that Berlin's universities are among the top favorites worldwide when it comes to choosing where to study and where to locate. The universities are as big as their names, with Freie Universität Berlin and Humboldt Universität leading the way.



Cooperation in research and education with well over a thousand international partner universities and 70 non-university research institutions demonstrates how far Berlin's network extended. The non-university research institutions also achieve great things in research in a wide range of scientific fields, including the humanities and social sciences, engineering, and the natural, material and life sciences. The majority of these departmental research institutions are jointly funded by the state of Berlin, the federal government and the federal states, although there are also numerous institutions that are not co-financed by the state and are therefore not listed there. 

One of the non-university research institutions, for example, is the Leibniz Association. There are 95 Leibniz locations throughout Germany that are active in numerous scientific fields. With 15 institutes, two branch offices, and the administrative office, the largest location is in Berlin.

In addition to the Leibniz Association, other well-known names have also settled in Berlin. Among them, 6 of the total 86 institutes and research centers of the Max Planck Society and the archive assigned to the general administration can be found in Berlin.

Tuition fees?

In addition to the enormous range of degree programs and non-university research institutions, the capital offers magnificent cultural diversity for young people. Out of 196,000 students in the 2019/2020 winter semester, the proportion of international students is around 18.3%. Another factor is particularly attractive for international students: some universities in Berlin do not charge tuition fees. These are borne by the state and not by the student as it happens in the rest of Europe or the USA. 

Tuition fees can be considerable, especially in England and the USA. For example, the cost of a bachelor's degree in England for foreign students ranges from £10,000 to £26,000. The cost of a master's degree starts at £11,000. This does not include living expenses.  Even if the cost of studying is not a qualitatively distinctive feature, the affordability of studying while maintaining high quality makes Berlin's universities, Berlin, and ultimately Germany itself highly attractive to students from all over the world. It is impossible to quantify how valuable this is in terms of the ever-increasing shortage of skilled workers.

Demand for microapartments on the rise

The rising numbers for new enrollments are also an indication of the city's growing popularity. After all, studying is fun in Berlin: In the local bars and trendy clubs, students can put the stress of studying aside for a moment, even during the week, and thus ensure a good work-life balance. When it's time to get back to work, students can be at their universities or internships in no time by public transportation. A city that never sleeps has a lot to offer. Whether it's a part-time job in the department store next door, an internship at a medium-sized company or founding a start-up, Berlin offers the foundation for every student. 

The many thousands of students who populate our city must also live with us. Berlin is per se a city of singles. The percentage of single-person households in Berlin is around 40 percent. As new enrollments increase, so does the demand for microapartments. A decrease of this demand is not to be expected, as Berlin is and will remain an attractive place for students. 

And investors have already acknowledged this. Since 2020, more than 200 million euros have already been invested in the construction of student complexes and microapartments throughout Berlin.

You can find many current student projects here:

Two more leading universities in Berlin

The Technical University of Berlin in Charlottenburg. Founded in 1879 and since 1946 the first technical university in Germany entitled to call itself a university. Unlike most technical universities in Germany, the TU Berlin teaches and conducts research in planning, humanities, social sciences and economics in addition to its focus on engineering and the natural sciences. It sees itself as a bridge between technological research and social responsibility and has set itself the objective of successfully establishing itself as an excellent research university on a long-term basis, both nationally and internationally.

With approximately 35,000 students, it is also one of the 20 largest universities in Germany.

Die Universität der Künste has gained a reputation as an academy and art university in the fields of fine arts, design, music and performing arts. It offers more than 70 degree programs at four faculties and the Central Institute for Continuing Education. The university also trains art and music teachers. Apart from the University of Potsdam, it is the only university in Berlin and Brandenburg that offers these subjects with the option of obtaining a teaching degree. With the right to award doctoral and post-doctoral degrees, the university is one of the few arts colleges in Germany with university status.

In Berlin, universities and non-university research institutions work closely together, but there is also no deficit in cooperation with companies. This is particularly evident in two of the most innovative and largest projects in Europe.

Before, during and after university: Siemens

A long-term project and a true commitment to Berlin. The current Siemens site in Spandau aims to become a spot for research, development and technology by 2030. By implementing new ways of working and living, an ecosystem will emerge that Siemens calls the ``Smart Campus of the Future``. 

Together with the government of the city Berlin and the district of Spandau, Siemens is developing an open, modern and urban district on approximately 70 hectares that will combine living and working. Not a new idea in itself, but still highly relevant. Since 1897, the idea of Siemensstadt has been to combine these attributes and to satisfy the rapidly growing demand with a factory-owned "residential city". Just as forward-looking as the concepts of the founders over 120 years ago is today's emerging Smart Campus. The formerly self-contained industrial site is being transformed into an open and lively large-scale quarter in Berlin. On more than 70 hectares, people will do research, work, and live. Know-how and technology, MADE IN BERLIN, digital, sustainable and energy-efficient.

In the spirit of the energy transition: EUREF

In Schöneberg, a district of Tempelhof-Schöneberg, you will find the EUREF Campus, a 5.5-hectare urban quarter. 

The campus is home or location to countless companies from the fields of energy, sustainability and mobility and sees itself as a ``symbol of the energy transition``. More than 150 global players as well as small companies and start-ups develop intelligent solutions for cities of the future in exchange and cooperation and are employing about 5,000 people. Many well-known names, such as Alphabet, Getec Energie, or Deutsche bahn and many many more, have settled here. These companies are further supported by teaching and research institutions. 

With numerous research projects, EUREF wants to make the energy turnaround possible. For example, the campus achieved the government's 2045 climate targets as early as 2014! 

EUREF does not only want to research, but also to inform and therefore organizes various events at 10 indoor and outdoor locations around the well-known Gasometer, in which up to 1,000 people can participate.

Adlershof. Science at Work

The smartest district in Berlin (according to the website) is closely connected to the Humboldt University, i.e. the science and technology park WISTA located in Treptow-Köpenick, more precisely in Adlershof.  

In the technology centers of the high-tech location, research and development is carried out in the fields of photonics and optics, biotechnology and the environment, microsystems and materials, renewable energies and photovoltaics, as well as IT and media. WISTA is one of Germany's patent forges. Young founders are supported with the A² Accelerator Program and the Gründungswerkstatt Adlershof, and talent is identified and promoted early on with many ``Jugend forscht`` programs. WISTA is the first leading project of university and non-university research and work in Berlin.

Masterplan TXL - The Urban Tech Republic

If you draw a direct diagonal line from Adlershof in the southeast of Berlin to the northwest of the capital, you end up where millions of passengers used to land at West Berlin's TXL Airport. Here, the state of Berlin is planning the Urban Tech Republic on the site of the former Tegel Airport, a research and industrial park for urban technologies as well as a new residential district. The megaproject is still in an early development phase, with the first development plan for the site completed in 2021. The plans are a statement: Around one thousand large and small companies with around 20,000 employees will research, develop and produce here in the future, and more than 2,500 students will move into the former Terminal A with the renowned Beuth University of Applied Sciences. 

Driven by knowledge

Berlin's universities and non-university research institutions have worked their way up from partly very difficult post-reunification times. The number of new enrollments continues to rise and this development is not expected to end. The diverse educational and research landscape is enhanced by a high quality of life, a wide range of leisure activities and a comparatively low cost of living. These are all attributes that are not only of interest to the big players. Recruiting is easier when the human capital is on site, and this is just as true for large companies as it is for the start-up scene. Important attributes for young people are an open mindset, internationality and opportunities for development. Just a few years ago, for many, the time in Berlin came to an end after graduation. The knowledge acquired in Berlin was exported and was no longer available here. Now the players are coming to Berlin and moving towards their target group. Berlin, that much is certain, is facing a bright future.