Here’s why Berlin is still a budget paradise for students

We break down why the comparatively low cost of study in Berlin makes it the perfect place to enjoy a vibrant, international creative culture while kick-starting your career.

There’s a reason why Berlin is such a melting pot of creatives: because it used to be dirt cheap. In the wake of the fallen Wall, there was a tonne of vacant real estate. Artists from far and wide flocked to the city – able to live centrally, rather than at the fringes. What resulted was the vibrant, international creative scene for which Berlin is now famous. And despite being the capital, other German cities like Munich and Frankfurt were more attractive to businesses. So for a long time, Berlin’s prices remained budget friendly.

Fast-forward to 2020, however, and it’s safe to say that Berlin is no longer “poor, but sexy.” Gentrification has caught up with the city, as it has become the European hotspot to experience an easy-going quality of life and to revel in alternative culture. You need only look at techno megaclub Berghain’s official classification among theatres and concert halls to get the picture.

Yet, despite recent extensive development in Berlin and an accompanying sharp rise in accommodation prices, Berlin remains significantly cheaper than other large Western European cities.

Affordable Living

Areas bordering the central “Ring” are a great, budget-friendly option for students

As The Times reports, in 2016, the city’s finance chief said: “We want Berlin to remain a place where average earners can afford to live. And rumour has it that that’s no longer the case in London.”

Berlin’s effort to keep accommodation affordable resulted in the recent “Mietpreisbremse” law. Essentially, it means that, no matter how fierce the demand for apartments, landlords cannot drive rent prices above 10% of the current index. If you believe you’re paying too much, you are within your rights to ask for a reduction.

Since finding a central apartment in Berlin has become notoriously challenging (blame that cool factor), areas bordering the central “Ring” are a great, budget-friendly option for students. Lichtenberg – close to Catalyst and extremely well connected to other parts of the city – is one of our students’ favourite neighbourhoods.

When it comes to other living costs, Berlin is also a winner. An outdoor market in every neighbourhood makes it easy to find affordable, fresh produce. Equipping your living space for free or cheap is as easy as visiting Facebook groups such as Free Your Stuff Berlin. And if you want to avoid transport costs, the city is super bicycle friendly. For more information on the cost of living in Berlin, check out this useful resource by Housing Anywhere.

Studying in London vs. Berlin

Catalyst Berlin Screen Acting students rehearsing by the Spree river at Funkhaus

€8,376 less per year than the cheapest university degree in London – and a minimum of €25,128 saved over the duration of the course!

Given that living expenses are a huge part of the total cost of studying, Berlin has to be at the top of every budding student’s list of cities to consider. To put it into perspective, here’s a breakdown of the total annual costs of doing a degree in London, compared with Berlin, as of 2020.

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) requires you to have a budget of at least £1,265 per month for living expenses to study in London. Tuition fees for a typical university course in the UK are £9,250 per year for EU students or between £10,000 and £26,000 for international students. Therefore, the total cost of studying for a degree in London ranges from £24,430 per year to an eye-watering £41,180 per year.

Bear in mind that after Brexit – in the 2020/21 course year – the tuition fee charged to European students may increase if they are no longer treated like domestic British students.

In contrast, the equivalent authority in Germany requires students to demonstrate that they have €853 per month to cover their living costs – although it is possible to live on less in Berlin. Tuition fees for a Catalyst degree cost as little as €9,000 per year.

The total cost of doing a Catalyst degree is therefore a reasonable €19,236 per year, whereas in London it’s currently around €27,612 for an EU student and significantly more for an international student. That’s €8,376 less per year than the cheapest university degree in London – and a minimum of €25,128 saved over the duration of the course! Money saved towards exciting future projects, perhaps?

All courses at Catalyst are in English, and since our school is partnered with Plymouth Marjon University, students at Catalyst get a UK degree.

Fun for free

Musicians perform every Sunday at Mauerpark. Photo by Dominic Blewett

There are endless events and leisure activities to enjoy every day – many of which are free

If there’s one thing Berlin’s culture is renowned for, it’s its work-life balance – or life-work balance, to be accurate. Berliners make their free time a priority. In fact, you’d be surprised how few people work a typical five-day week. This means that there are endless events and leisure activities to enjoy every day – many of which are free!

Unlike in London, you needn’t to have full pockets to go out and have fun in this lively city. Summertime is particularly amazing; you’ll find sound systems on street corners or inside Spätis (drink shops), free raves in parks, or art shows and film screenings in abandoned buildings. Parades, such as the legendary Zug Der Liebe, and upbeat demonstrations are part of the fabric of Berlin.

That’s not to mention the many beautiful green spaces and lakes, which are easily reached by bicycle or public transport – perfect for when you need a little breathing space.

Hungry for some Berlinspiration? Read our ultimate guide to our students’ top five Berlin areas – walking through lifestyle, history and hidden gems.

Photo credi: Dominic Blewett