Free University of Berlin

Berlin, Germany
Website: Founded: 1948 year Type of University:Public 118 place StudyQA ranking: 1509 pts. No. Students: 36350 No. Staff: 4270 Languages: German Phone: +493083870000
Goerzallee (Berlin, Germany) Halbauer Weg (Berlin, Germany)
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About Freie Universität

Freie Universität is one of the eleven universities to have been successful in all three lines of funding in the German government's Excellence Initiative in 2012. The future development concept of Freie Universität is based on three key strategic centers: the Center for Research Strategy, which focuses on research planning; the Center for International Cooperation; and the Dahlem Research School, which supports next-generation academic talent.

The main features of Freie Universität’s research activities include the broad variety of global academic and scientific cooperation arrangements in place as part of alliance projects and networks with other entities active in research, alongside the university’s innovative support concepts for junior scholars and scientists and the scope of the external funding the university raises.

The various areas of focus in the research conducted at Freie Universität are organized into various structures, including interdisciplinary focus areas, excellence clusters, collaborative research centers, and research centers.

Freie Universität is a full-spectrum university, comprising twelve departments and three Central Institutes that together offer more than 150 different academic programs in a broad range of disciplines. Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin is the joint medical school of Freie Universität Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

Dahlem Research School (DRS) at Freie Universität Berlin offers the framework encompassing a range of outstanding structured doctoral programs. By establishing the DRS, Freie Universität Berlin broke new ground in the field of graduate education in Germany, all with the aim of offering junior scholars and scientists the best possible conditions for their academic development. At the DRS, strategies to support doctoral candidates and postdoctoral students at Freie Universität are developed, research within interdisciplinary and international alliances is fostered, and established graduate schools and research training groups receive support alongside new initiatives.

Freie Universität owes its founding, in 1948, to international support, and international impulses have shaped the university’s research activities and student life ever since. As an International Network University, Freie Universität thrives on its many contacts with higher education institutions and organizations in Germany and abroad, which provide critical impetus for the university’s research and teaching activities.

Today, Freie Universität maintains roughly 100 partnerships at the university-wide level, along with about 330 university partnerships within the Erasmus academic exchange network and ca. 45 institute partnerships, forming a wide-ranging and tight-knit global network.

Each year, about 600 international scholars and scientists contribute to the variety of teaching and research activities pursued at Freie Universität. One groundbreaking development that demonstrates the way the university takes international cooperation to the next level is the seven international liaison offices of Freie Universität that were founded beginning in 2007 – in Cairo, Moscow, New Delhi, São Paulo, New York, Beijing, and Brussels.

History of Freie Universität

Freie Universität Berlin was established by students and scholars on 4 December 1948. The foundation is strongly connected to the beginning of the Cold War period. The University of Berlin was located in the former Soviet sector of Berlin and was granted permission to continue teaching by the Soviet Military Administration in Germany (SMAD) in January 1946. The universities were increasingly influenced by communism as they were ground for the political disputes of the postwar period. This led to protests by students critical of the prevailing system. Between 1945 and 1948, more than 18 students were arrested or persecuted, some even executed by the soviet secret police (NKVD).

Foundation (1948-2000)

At the end of 1947, first students demanded a university free from political influence. The climax of the protests was reached on 23 April 1948: after three students were expelled from the university without a trial, about 2,000 students protested at the Hotel Esplanade. By the end of April, the governor of the United States Army Lucius D. Clay gave the order to legally check for the formation of a new university in the western sectors. On 19 June 1948 the "preparatory committee for establishing a free university" consisting of politicians, professors, administrative staff members and students, met. With a manifesto titled "Request for establishing a free university in Berlin" the committee appealed to the public for support. The municipal authorities of Berlin granted the foundation of a free university and requested the opening for the coming winter semester 1948/49. Meanwhile, the students committee in the German Democratic Republic protested against the formation, the GDR described the new university as the "so-called free university" in official documents until the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The Council-manager government accepted the by-law on 4 November 1948. The by-law achieved prominence under its alias "the Berlin model": Freie Universität was founded as a statutory corporation (Körperschaft des öffentlichen Rechts) and was not directly subjected to the state, as it was controlled by a supervisory board consisting of six representatives of the state of Berlin, three representatives of the university and students. This form was unique in Germany at that time, as the students had much more influence on the system than before. But until the 1970s, the involvement of the students in the committees was slowly cut back while adapting to the model of the western German universities in order to be fully recognized as an equivalent university. On 15 November 1948, the first lectures were held in the buildings of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society for the Advancement of Science. The actual foundation took place on 4 December 1948 in the Titania palace, the film theater with the biggest hall available in the western sectors of Berlin. Attendants of the event were not only scientists, politicians (the Governing MayorErnst Reuter amongst others) and students, but also representatives of American universities, among them Stanford University and Yale University. The first elected president of the FU Berlin was the historian Friedrich Meinecke.

In 1949, Freie Universität already registered 4,946 students. Until the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, many students came from the soviet sector, often supported through the "Währungsstipendium" of the senate.

On 26 June 1963, the same day he held his famous Ich bin ein Berliner speech at Rathaus Schöneberg, John F. Kennedy was awarded honorary citizen by the Freie Universität and held a ceremonial speech in front of the Henry Ford building in which he addressed the future of Berlin and Germany under the consideration of the motto of the FU. Amongst the attendant crowd are also the Governing Mayor of Berlin Willy Brandt and the Chancellor of Germany Konrad Adenauer. His brother, Robert F. Kennedy visited Freie Universität in 1962 for the first time and in June 1964 for receiving his honorary degree from the Department of Philosophy. The speech he held at the event was dedicated to John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated just the year before.

In the late 1960s, Freie Universität was one of the main scenes of the German student movement of 68 as a reaction to the global student protests during that time. After the assassination of student Benno Ohnesorg and the attempt on Rudi Dutschke's life, protests quickly escalated to violence in all of Germany. The events of the 68-movement provided the impulse for more openness, equality, and democracy in German society.

During the 1970s and the 1980s, the university became a "Massenuniversität" (mass/mega university) with 50,298 registered students in 1983. After reunification, Freie Universität was the second largest university in Germany (after the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich) with 62,072 students in the winter term of 1991/92. Shortly thereafter, the senate of Berlin decided to drastically reduce the places until 2003, the number of students shrank to 43,885 in the winter term of 2002/03. Since 2000, the Freie Universität Berlin has revamped itself. The university's research performance increased markedly with regard to the number of graduates, PhDs granted, and publications. Underlying this successful trend were fundamental reforms such as the introduction of modern management systems in the administration, a reorganization of the departments, and an efficient utilization of resources. The Prognos AG, the renowned economic consulting corporation founded by the University of Basel, Switzerland, presented Freie Universität with an award for its good entrepreneurial principles.

Recent years (2000-present)

Since 2003, the FU Berlin has been regrouping its research capacities into interdisciplinary research focus areas called clusters. Due to financial cutbacks and restructuring of medical schools in the same year, the medical institutions of Freie Universität and the Humboldt University merged to create a joint department, the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin.

The year 2007 was another crucial year for the Freie Universität as it was the university with the most approved funding applications in the German Universities Excellence Initiative, and it is now one of nine elite German universities to receive funding for its future development strategy. In the same year, Freie Universität dedicated a monument to the founding students who were murdered during the protests. The university presents its Freedom Award to personalities who have made a special contribution toward the cause of freedom. In 2012, Freie Universität successfully entered the third period of the initiative.

Based on its founding tradition, the Freie Universität's seal to this day bears the Latin terms for Truth, Justice, and Liberty. The designer of the seal was art historian and former president of the Freie Universität Edwin Redslob.

With 33,000 applicants for the undergraduate programs (Bachelor) in 2013, admissions at Freie Universität remain highly competitive as the university only offers about 4,300 places each year. Due to the high numbers of applicants, most undergraduate programs at Freie Universität have limitations determined through the NC. The general deadline for students directly from high school applying to limited programs in the coming winter semester is 15 July every year at all universities in Germany.

In some cases (especially Medicine and Psychology), the NC every year is as high as 1.0 (see Grades in Germany and Abitur). Critical applicants which just scored slightly below the NC can be invited to an selective interview or an entry exam, depending on the department/faculty. Applicants at Charité medical school who do not directly fulfill the NC-criteria have to pass an entry exam, which covers the basic fields of Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry and Physics in addition to passing a selective interview. Both results are then added to the Abitur grade. The final decision depends on the results of the competitors.


Institutional Accreditation or Recognition - Senatsverwaltung für Bildung, Jugend und Wissenschaft, Berlin

Year of first Accreditation - 1948


  • Freie Universität Berlin is consistently ranked among Germany's top ten universities overall, with particularly strengths in the arts & humanities followed by the social sciences internationally.
  • In the German "ExcellenceRanking" of the CHE (Center for Higher Education Development) in 2013, Freie Universität ranks top in the fields of Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Political science.
  • In the CHE "SubjectRanking", Freie Universität has been evaluated as one of Germany's best universities in Earth sciences, Computer science and Philosophy and also ranks among the Top 5 in Psychology, English studies and Education.
  • The 2011 British QS World University Rankings ranked the university at 66th internationally.
  • The 2011 QS WUR for law ranked the FU at 41st internationally, 12th best in Europe and 2nd in Germany.
  • In the QS WUR 2014, Freie Universität was placed at the 81–90 slot being the fifth German university ranked in the list.
  • According to the British Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2017 the FU Berlin ranks 75th globally (including a Top25 position for Arts and Humanities) and fifth in Germany.
  • Because of an unresolved dispute over the Nobel laureates before the Second World War (both Humboldt and Freie Universität claim to be the rightful successor of the University of Berlin), they do not appear in the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), anymore. The last ARWU, also known as Shanghai Ranking, placed d the FU at 83th in the world in 2007.

The simplest way to find a room or an apartment is to search on the private housing market. Many students in Berlin live in shared apartments (WGs) and there is a relatively large supply of rooms. You find these offers on the internet, in various Berlin magazines, or on notice boards in different places of the university. 30 minutes to one hour commuting time on public transportation is nothing unusual - depending on where you live in the city. It is advisable to attend to find a room in Berlin soon because low priced accommodations are rare.

The rent

Rents in Berlin normally start at 350 Euro, shared apartments tend to be less expensive. On signing the lease your landlord will probably expect a deposit of three months, reimbursed with interest at the end of tenancy as long as nothing has been damaged. Sometimes a commission or a compensation for furniture is requested; therefore, make sure that you bring enough money with you.

Short-term Accommodation

If you arrive in Berlin and have not yet found an apartment or a room you will need cheap short-term accommodation at either a youth hostel (in German) or a guest house (Jugendgästehaus).

Registration at the Bürgeramt

Within 10 days after your arrival in Berlin, you need to register at the local authorities (even for a temporary stay). The proof of residence registration is needed to open a bank account.

The Berliner Bürgerämter (in German) are related to the particular districts.

For the registration you need to bring:

  • the official registration form
  • your passport or identity card.

All students from EU Countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland ask for the "Freizügigkeitsbescheinigung", when they register at the Bürgeramt.

Services of Freie Universität Berlin


Within the Freie Universität Berlin Library System, the University Library and the other library units cooperate in providing access to holdings of 8.5 million printed items (not counting Charité holdings) and a wide range of electronic media (e-books, e-journals and databases).

Dining Halls: Menus

  • "Veggie No 1 – die Grüne Mensa" (FU I Van't-Hoff-Straße)
  • Mensa FU II Otto-v.-Simson-Straße
  • Mensa FU Lankwitz
  • Mensa FU Aßmannshauser Str.
  • Mensa FU Düppel
  • Cafeteria FU Koserstraße
  • Cafeteria FU Königin-Luise-Str.
  • Cafeteria FU V.-Hoff-Str
  • Cafeteria FU Ihnestraße

Dual Career & Family Service

At Freie Universität, we believe "family" means all situations in which people take long-term social responsibility for others. This includes, first and foremost, those who are raising children and people who care for family members. Freie Universität has been certified by audit familiengerechte hochschule since June 2007. In addition, the university signed the "Familie in der Hochschule" charter in June 2015. By embracing family-friendly personnel policies and a family-friendly university structure, Freie Universität helps its members to better balance working life, studies, and academic qualification processes with family responsibilities.

The Dual Career & Family Service also offers all members of the Freie Universität community information and confidential advising services on all questions relating to better balancing work, studies, and family life.

Student Services Center (SSC)

The central contact point for all kind of requests about your studies is located in Iltisstr. 4, subway station Dahlem-Dorf. On the ground floor employees of the Info-Service Studium receive the visitors. On the first and second floor the offices of the General Academic Advising, the Psychological Counseling and the International Student Mobility – Welcome Services are resided. Further facilities also offer their service in the building.


  • Botanic Garden
  • Collegium Musicum
  • Center for Recreational Sports
  • Junges Orchester
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Study mode:On campus Languages: English
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Deadline: Feb 2, 2024 118 place StudyQA ranking: 1994 You need IELTS certificate
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