Education in Freiburg

Freiburg is a center of academia and research with numerous intellectual figures and Nobel laureates having lived, worked, and taught there.

The city houses one of the oldest and most renowned German universities, the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg, as well as its medical center. Home to some of the greatest minds of the West, including such eminent figures as Johann Eck, Max Weber, Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, and Friedrich Hayek, it is one of Europe's top research and teaching institutions.

Freiburg also plays host to various other educational and research institutes, such as the Freiburg University of Education, the Protestant University for Applied Sciences Freiburg, Freiburg Music Academy, the Catholic University of Applied Sciences Freiburg, the International University of Cooperative Education IUCE, three Max Planck institutes, and five Fraunhofer institutes.  The city is home to the IES European Union program, which allows students to study the development and activities of the EU.

University of Freiburg 

The university was founded in 1457 by the Habsburg dynasty as the second university in Austrian-Habsburg territory after the University of Vienna. Today, Freiburg is the fifth-oldest university in Germany, with a long tradition of teaching the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. The university is made up of 11 faculties and attracts students from across Germany as well as from over one hundred and twenty other countries. Foreign students constitute about 16% of total student numbers.

The University of Freiburg is one of Europe's most prestigious universities and is amongst its top research and teaching institutions. With its long-standing reputation of excellence, the university looks both to the past, to maintain its historic academic and cultural heritage, and to the future, developing new methods and opportunities to meet the needs of a changing world. The University of Freiburg has been home to some of the greatest minds of the Western tradition, including such eminent figures as Johann Eck, Max Weber, Rudolf Carnap, Edmund Husserl, Friedrich Meinecke, Martin Heidegger, Hannah Arendt, Hans-Georg Gadamer and Friedrich Hayek. In addition, 19 Nobel laureates are affiliated with the University of Freiburg and 15 academics have been honored with the highest German research prize, the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, while working at the University of Freiburg.

As of 2007, the university has been designated an elite German "University of Excellence".

Originally Albrechts University, the university started with four faculties (theology, philosophy, medicine and law). Its establishment belongs to the second wave of German university foundings in the late Middle Ages, like the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen and the University of Basel. Established by papal privilege (papal bull) the University in Freiburg actually was - like all or most universities in the Middle Ages - a corporation of the church body and therefore belonged to the Roman Catholic Church and its hierarchy. The bishop of Basel consequently was its provost or chancellor (Kanzler), the bishop of Constance was its patron while the real founder of the university was the sovereign, Archduke Albert VI of Austria, being the brother of Frederick III, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. At its founding, the university was named after Albert VI of Austria. He provided the university with land and endowments as well as its own jurisdiction. Also he declared Albrechts University as the "county university" (German Landesuniversität) for his territory until it was handed over to the Austrian House of Habsburg in 1490.

The University soon attracted many students as the humanists Geiler von Kaysersberg, Johann Reuchlin or Jakob Wimpfeling. When Ulrich Zasius was teaching law (until 1536), Freiburg became a centre of humanist jurisprudence. From 1529 to 1535 Erasmus of Rotterdam lived and taught in Freiburg. From around 1559 on, the university was housed at the Altes Collegium ("Old College"), today called the "new town-hall". The importance of the university decreased during the time of the Counter-Reformation. To counter reformatory tendencies, the administration of two faculties was handed over to the Roman Catholic order of the Jesuits in 1620. From 1682 on, the Jesuits built their college as well as the Jesuit church (nowadays the "University Church" or Universitätskirche).

The university had to move out of Freiburg several times, as from 1686 to 1698, when French troops occupied Freiburg and the southern parts of the upper Rhine region.

After Freiburg was re-conquered and appointed as capital of Further Austria, a new time began for the university by the reforms of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. The requirements for admission were changed for all faculties in 1767 (before that time only Roman Catholics were allowed to study) and Natural Sciences were added as well as Public Administration. Also in 1767, the university became a governmental institution despite the Church's protests. The Church finally lost its predominant influence on the university when the Jesuits were suppressed following a decree signed by Pope Clement XIII in 1773. Consequently, Johann Georg Jacobi (brother of the more famous philosopher Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi) in 1784 was the first Protestant professor teaching at the university in Freiburg.

When Freiburg became a part of the newly established Grand Duchy of Baden (in German "Großherzogtum Baden") in 1805 (after Napoleon occupied the area of the formerly Further Austria), a crisis began for the university in Freiburg. Indeed there were considerations by Karl Friedrich, Grand Duke of Baden and Karl, Grand Duke of Baden to close down the university in Freiburg while both of them thought that the Grand Duchy could not afford to run two universities at the same time (the Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg also already existed since 1386). The university had enough endowments and earnings to survive until the beginning of the regency of Ludwig I, Grand Duke of Baden in 1818. Finally in 1820 he saved the university with an annual contribution. Since then the university has been named Albert Ludwigs University Freiburg (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg) as an acknowledgement of gratitude by the university and the citizens of Freiburg.

In the 1880s the population of the student body and faculty started to grow quickly. The scientific reputation of Albert Ludwigs University attracted several researchers like economist Adolph Wagner, historians Georg von Below and Friedrich Meinecke, or jurists Karl von Amira and Paul Lenel.

The University of Freiburg, among others, served as a role model for the establishment of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA, in 1875. Johns Hopkins was the first US university committed to research following Alexander von Humboldt's ideas of research as practiced at German universities at the time. Daniel Coit Gilman, founding president of Johns Hopkins, who had studied in Germany, visited Freiburg and other German universities in preparation for the founding of Johns Hopkins.

In 1900 Freiburg became the first German university to accept a female student. Just before World War I the university counted 3,000 students. After World War I the philosophers Edmund Husserl and (since 1928) Martin Heidegger taught at Albert Ludwigs University, as well as Edith Stein. On the field of social sciences, Walter Eucken developed the idea of ordoliberalism, which consequently is also known as the "Freiburg School".

In the beginning of the 20th century several new university buildings were built in the centre of Freiburg, such as in 1911 the new main building. During the "Third Reich" the university went through the process of "political alignment" (Gleichschaltung) like the rest of the German universities. Under the rector Martin Heidegger all Jewish faculty members were forced to leave the university in accordance with the "‘Law for the Reintroduction of Professional Civil Service". After World War II the university was re-opened. New buildings for natural sciences were erected in the Institutsviertel ("institute quarter").

In the postwar years, the ideas of ordoliberalism, developed earlier by economists of the Freiburg School such as Walter Eucken, Franz Böhm, Hans Grossmann-Doerth and Leonhard Miksch drove the creation of the German social market economy and its attendant Wirtschaftswunder. Nobel Prize winner and former professor at the University of Freiburg, Friedrich Hayek is also associated with this theory. He directed the Walter Eucken Institut, an economic think tank in Freiburg cooperating with the university. Arnold Bergstraesser, considered a founding father or German political science after World War II, was also a professor at the University of Freiburg. His research group later formed what is now the Arnold Bergstraesser Institute for socio-cultural research at the university.

In the late 20th century, the university was part of a mass education campaign and expanded rapidly. The student body grew to 10,000 by the 1960s, and doubled to 20,000 students by 1980. In the 1970s, the faculty structure was changed to 14 departments, with the Faculty of Applied Sciences becoming the 15th faculty in 1994. In 2002, the number of faculties was reduced to eleven. The university opened a memorial dedicated to the victims of National Socialism among the students, staff, and faculty in 2003.

In 2006, the University of Freiburg joined the League of European Research Universities (LERU). One year later, in 2007, the University of Freiburg was chosen as one of nine German Universities of Excellence.

Freiburg: a city for Students

Freiburg has slightly more than 200 000 inhabitants, of which approximately 30 000 are students,  a large number of them coming from abroad.

There are different universities in Freiburg: First of all there is the Albert-Ludwigs-University which is located with its buildings in the city centre. Secondly, one can study at the Pädagogische Hochschule which is a little further out of town in Littenweiler. Students there mainly study education at primary or secondary level. Furthermore there are smaller universities such as the Catholic or Protestant University or the Music University, the last being for people who study music only.

Generally speaking, people are very friendly and open-minded. Each university has its own international centre that will help you with any problems and difficulties that may occur. Staff will try to assist you as much as they can so do not hesitate to ask if you have any questions or complaints.

Get to know the city, the region and plan your free time

There are all kinds of institutions in the city that offer a large variety of social activities and trips. One that is especially for students from Freiburg is the Studentenwerk (Schreiberstraße 12-16). They organize all kinds of events and you are more than welcome to take part always at a very cheap price. All the universities publish their own semester programmes which give you information about all activities that are offered for students. There are tours and trips or courses that you can take part in e.g. in arts or sports (climbing, hiking, cycling, dancing, ball games, yoga), music (orchestras, choirs, clubs, and other meeting groups that love to have new members. The most famous booklet to find out more about this is the Studium Generale which is available in many places in the city shortly before the semester starts. As you will quickly find out there are many ways to plan and fill your free time. This is one way for you to easily meet new people, so if you are interested - go for it!

Freiburg is a city with a lot of things to do and places to explore. First of all you should take the chance to walk up the Schloßberg (access from the Schwabentor) where you can enjoy a wonderful view over the whole town from the Kanonenplatz. If you are a sportsperson you can even take up another challenge and climb up the new Schloßbergturm- your effort will be finally rewarded!

Another highlight is the famous Munster in Freiburg and the square around it, where there is a market several times each week. The inner city with its historic buildings, narrow streets and the well-known Bächle is also worth seeing- however, you will not be able to avoid doing so, as it is also the place where you will spend part of your time. Here you find most shops and boutiques and there are lots of bars, cafes and cinemas. Thus day- and nightlife is very busy here.

At the beginning of the semesters students offer tours through not only the university but also the city. If, however, you need further information on what to do and what to see in and around Freiburg you can contact for example the tourist information centre or check out the internet.

Accommodation and how to get around

Unfortunately accommodation in Freiburg is one of the main problems for new students. Places to live are not easy to find and very often rents are quite high. One piece of advice you should try to follow is to look for accommodation as early as possible. To do so you can look at the Zypresse an advertising newspaper that is published twice a week and that you can get for free. Another helpful place you can go to is again the Studentenwerk. They also have a good selection of single rooms and shared flats. If you would like to live in a Studentenwohnheim you need to apply there very early, because they usually have long waiting lists at the start of the semester.

However, you might have to consider living a little further out of the city centre. If so, do not worry! The suburbs and villages around Freiburg are also wonderful places to live and it is extremely easy to get out and around - even at night. Public transport in Freiburg is extraordinary and outstanding compared to other cities in Germany. There are trams, busses and trains which bring you everywhere and run at very short intervals. As a student you can purchase the Semesterticket which is similar to a regio card and allows you to use public transport all trough the semester in and even around Freiburg for just an extra payment of 53,00€.

Nevertheless the most famous way to get around in Freiburg is definitely by bike. As the city itself is not too big, the weather is not too bad (throughout the year we have most hours of sun in the whole country!), parking for cars is very limited and there are around 400km cycle tracks in the city it is just the best way to move around. You probably will become infected by this Freiburg mentality very quickly J ! There are many ways to get a second-hand bike (e.g. auctions) if you cannot bring your own one and do not want to buy a new one.


As I have already mentioned Freiburg is very strongly characterized by its international flair. Therefore you can get all kinds of food in the city. First of all there are various supermarkets and discount stores that offer everything that is usually consumed by Germans and other European nations. Food is not very exotic here though many traditional products from other countries have found their way into our eating culture. If however you are looking for typical international products, there are also smaller specialised shops with Asian, French or Turkish food all around the city.

Going out for dinner is another possibility and at some places even a very cheap one. You will find all kinds of restaurants, in all kinds of styles and with all kinds of food. However, the most popular places serve Italian, Turkish and Asian food.


In terms of weather conditions once again Freiburg was a good choice! Still, depending on how long you are staying and when you are arriving you should prepare yourself in terms of appropriate clothing. The summers in Freiburg tend to be very sunny and at times very hot as well. Though we do not have any serious ozone- or smog problems protecting your skin from the sun is an important issue, especially when you spend your time outside, which you will be very likely to do. Freiburg has many places to go to such as Swimming Pools, the Dreisam river, barbecue places, the Seepark in the west of the city, the Open Air Cinema etc. While summer is a great time to relax outside and enjoy all kind of activities, winter should not be ignored. Though in the winter time temperatures are not extremely low and the city is one of the mildest places throughout Germany, the area around has a lot to offer in terms of skiing and other winter sports. The Feldberg (1493m) and the Schauinsland (1286m) are the highest elevations in the Black Forest and there is lots of snow usually during the whole season.

Altogether weather conditions in Freiburg are very temperate and do not have any extremes but rather vary over the year in a way that allows all kinds of leisure arrangements outside. So no matter where you are from, it should not be too much of a problem to get used to the climate here. If however you read this and find out that you have not prepared yourself appropriately in terms of clothing do not worry! You can get all the clothes and equipment you need (e.g. for doing winter sports) often quite reasonably in town or just hire it on a daily basis.

Cultural aspects

One thing you might have get used to is shaking hands when greeting other people. You do not usually shake hands with a close friend, but if you meet new people (especially when they are older than you) or you are at a more formal occasion this is a very typical way to say hello to each other.

If you are still struggling with your German, there is no need to be worried. Germans love to show their language skills and sometimes they will even try to speak your language if they know it. Most students will be well able to communicate in English or even French.

If you are going out at night for a drink, usually everybody pays for him-/herself. Nevertheless, if someone buys you a drink, there is no need for you to pay that person straight back.

People in Germany and maybe particularly in Freiburg are very outgoing. The city has a lot to offer in terms of cultural activities (theatre, movies, concerts, lectures, presentations,) and there are bars and restaurants all over the place. The nightlife is well organised and it usually has something to offer for everybody. Daily and weekly theme parties at different locations are as popular as are the monkey jump festival, Universal and the ZMF- just to name some of the bigger events.

There is probably a lot more to say in terms of manners and things that are typical in German culture. After all whole books were written on this topic. But you will learn a lot more during your stay here and when observing people or going out with them. As they are used to tourists from abroad and internationals, Freiburgers tend to be very patient and understanding, so do not worry if some things go wrong at the beginning. With a little sense of humour which is very common in this region, everything will be fine!

What else? Internet access

Another aspect that might be of great interest for you is Internet access as this is a wonderful way to find out things and to keep in touch with friends and family back home. Once you are enrolled at university you get an e-mail account including a personal password which allows you to access the Internet (only at your university) for free. Generally speaking the computer rooms are well-equipped and usually they also have scanners and printers. Besides, in the city itself there are various Internet cafes, so after all this should not be a matter of concern to you.

Language schools

Berlitz Language school

Situated right in the heart of Freiburg, Berlitz is a language school that is easily accessible - just a stones throw from the main train station (Hauptbahnhof) and within reach of Freiburg's old city, it's spectacular Muenster cathedral and the main shopping district on the Kaiser-Joseph-Straße.

In their brightly-lit training rooms, Berlitz and it's team of qualified language teachers focus on language skill development for single persons, groups and company organised groups.


    Friedrichring 37
    Tel.: +49 761 27 3074
    Fax: +49 761 28 33 94



Goethe Institute Language School

The Goethe Institute is in a modern building at the edge of the picturesque historic centre of Freiburg, just five minutes from the main railway station, the town centre and the Stühligen student district. 

  • At the Goethe Institute in Freiburg you will find:
  • pleasant learning environment
  • music room with grand piano and upright piano;
  • practice opportunties for music students
  • computers and Internet access
  • public telephones and fax machine
  • evening events with young Germans
  • good contacts to important city institutions

Course participants have free use of the Mediothek, equipped with multimedia facilities and materials. The teachers will help you select media and materials. Your learning programme will be tailored to match your goals and level. In this way, your lessons and self-study activities will ideally complement one another, comprising a well-rounded and effective learning programme.

Wilhelmstrasse 17, 79098 Freiburg, Germany

Tel: +49 (0) 761 - 3 86 71-0
Fax: +49 (0) 761 - 3 86 71-15

Email:      This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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