Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
Siegel der Universität Heidelberg

Financial budget: Master's program Scientific Computing

Heidelberg University is one of Germany's elite universities. Studies in a consecutive master's program is tuition free for students from EU countries. For students from non-EU countries, the tuition fees for master programs is 1500.- Euro per semester

A rough outline of further costs (per month):

  • accommodation: 350.- Euro
  • living expenses: 300.- Euro
  • public transport: ~27.- Euro (160.- Euor per term)
  • material required for studies: 50.- Euro

This totals to about 727.- Euro/month. This is a conservative estimate -- based on these figures we suggest to our students that they will need between 750.- and 800.- Euro per month to finance their studies. University registration fees are 148.- Euro per term. Health insurance greatly depends on your needs, your country of origin and other facts. Contracts start at 40.- Euro per month.
When you apply for a residence permit you need to prove that you have at least  735.- Euro to live on for each month of your stay.

General information for foreign students

  1. Make sure to apply early for the program. Evaluation of the application by both central university and faculty take a long time
  2. Apply for student dormitories even if you do not have confirmation of your application. The deadline for student dormitory application is July 15th (for the next winter term). You will get on a waiting list and can confirm your application as soon as you have the acceptance letter of the university for your studies. Note that dormitories are under the administration of the Heidelberger Studentenwerk, not the central university administration.
  3. Plan your visa application in advance! Depending on your country of origin, visa interview dates might be hard to get. Looking for a suitable date (and maybe cancelling the interview) helps you to get to Heidelberg in time.
  4. The (first) language of instruction is English. Make sure to meet the required level of English (B2) not only in an examination, but in everyday learning situations. If you struggle with the language of instruction, learning the content of the courses is even harder and usually students do not succeed.

FAQ - General Information and Application

Q: Can you post a study plan for terms 1 and 2 - or maybe for the complete program?

A: Lectures in the master program change every semester. The main reason is that this program is very close to our research areas - investigators come up with research-oriented education offers term by term. For the specializations we offer a tentative course table to give you a general impression of what your personal schedule could look like. In the first two weeks of each term we offer intensive guidance to help you with the course selection. 

Q: What profile of prior education does this program expect? What is the target group of this master's program?

A: From our past experience we get applications from three different "classes" of candidates:

Students with a prior education in (applied) mathematics
We expect these students to have a strong background in theory and applications of applied mathematics (Numerics, Statistics, Differential Equations (ODE, PDE)). To succeed in the program, additional formal education in computer science with a focus on modern programming structures (data, algorithms) is essential. Solid command of a major programming language is also a must.

Students with a prior education in computer science
These students should have a focus on practical applications of programming, the construction of complex code and the generation of efficient computational methods including data handling. Since the program asks all students to take master courses in mathematics as well, these applicants need an above-average background in mathematical education, not only in calculations, but in the theory of mathematics, construction of proofs and the formal methods of mathematical science.

Students with a prior education in applications (engineering, economics, ...)
Application for these candidates is very challenging: They must provide mathematical education that exceeds the regular course work (mathematics for engineers I-IV) including probability & statistics, numerical analysis, ... AND have a proven record of practical computer science in the direction of systematic algorithmic design and implementation in at least one mayor programming language (C++, Java, C, Python, ...).

In general, our candidates need to prove that they understand mathematical theory and can build programs themselves that implements this theory in practical applications. Just being able to "use existing software" es not enough to make the cut.

Q: Is "Scientific Computing" another term for "Computer Science"?

A: Not at all! Please note that the program "Scientific Computing" is the combination of Applied Mathematics and Computer Science. Students in this master's program develop powerful, high-level mathematical methods and implement them in software applications. Therefore, a strong background in mathematics as well as a solid foundation of applied computer science is indispensable to successfully complete this program. Students with a bachelor in computer science usually struggle a lot in this master's program if they lack a solid education in mathematics. As a guideline the following topics should be present from the bachelor education, secondary teaching, online courses or similar:

Mathematics Computer Science
Analysis 1-3 Programming in C++ (or C or Java ...)
Linear Algebra 1-2 Introduction to Information Systems
Introduction to Probability & Statistics Algorithms and Data Structures
Introduction to Numerics Data Bases

Further courses in both areas are a plus when starting the master program.

Q: What should be the content of the motivation letter?

A: With the motivation letter the admission committee wants to understand why you chose this program. It also important to show that the education and knowledge you have so far is in line with the requirements. If you don't have taken courses in an area with impact to the program but have other practical knowledge, you can explain this in the letter of motivation. Some lead questions for the motivation letter are:

  • What facets of Scientific Computing are interesting to you?
  • What further knowledge in mathematics and/or computer science do you possess?
  • What could be possible research areas that you are interested in?
  • Why did you chose this master's program?

Remark: General statements ("Heidelberg is such a wonderful city", "As Albert Einstein once said ...") might be counterproductive.

Q: What is the "Field of Application"?

A: The study regulations assign 18 ECTS (15% of the program) to a field of application (see study plan for details). Students choose this field like a minor subject. Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Economics are the most popular fields of application, but further options are possible. Students can freely select modules from the master's program of the chosen subject.

Remark: Starting in the summer term 2015, we also offer 2-3 "packages" of predefined course combinations in selected application fields. We recommend these packages to students as sound foundation for further studies within the master's program.

Q: English is not my first language but I have studied in an English speaking country/ a study program with English as the main language of education. Do I still need an English language certificate to prove my English proficiency?

A: Please add a short personal statement that you did studies in a system with English as major language of education (including dates and places). In this case, no English language certificate is needed.

Q: Do I have to provide a German language certificate when I apply?

A: No, a German language certificate is not needed to apply. The M.A. Scientific Computing is an international master course and can be studied entirely in English.

Q: I heard that students from China have to complete extra application forms. Is that true?

A: All German universities only accept students from China who can provide an APS certificate from the Academic Examination Office (  Akademische Prüfstelle APS) in Bejing. This certificate is mandatory and must be added to the application to the University of Heidelberg. If the APS certificate is not present, administration of the university will cancel the admission process without further notice.

Remark: The APS certificate also serves as guide for the visa process - students with an admission to a German university and an APS certificate will enjoy preferential treatment in the visa process.

Q: What kind of document is the "signed statement that the candidate did never forfeit the examination claim" that I need when I apply.

A: The "signed statement" is simply a letter/note, written and signed by yourself that states this text. For the document:   See this sample.

In other words: If you already tried such a program elsewhere (master's program with the same name and/or with similar content) and failed to complete the program, forfeiting your right for further exams (so: failing completely), Heidelberg University cannot take you as a student.

Q: Is it possible to send an online application via e-mail?

A: It is currently not possible to apply by submitting online material. All application documents must be sent as hard copies in one envelope to the university's central foreign admission office. Please refer to the detailed instructions regarding the application process. 

Q: My TOEFL score is rather low - but I am much stronger then the test reflects - can I still apply?

A: We use the TOEFL score to assess the command on the first teaching language (English) that applicants possess. While the score sometimes does not reflect the practical command on the English language that a candidate has (especially in the online version), we have the experience that students with a low TOEFL score generally have a hard time following the courses. Note that all parts of the TOEFL test are actually important for your studies: Speaking and oral understanding are necessary to follow lectures and answer to direct questions, while reading and writing are key talents for working in the exercise classes each week.

While we have admitted some students with low TOEFL scores due to exceptional performances in the main subjects Mathematics and Computer Science, generally we advise students to apply only if their command of the teaching language is sufficiently high. In your own interest make sure that this is the case.

FAQ - During your studies

Q: Can I have external academic achievements credited?

A: Yes! Please send a request in written form for crediting your external study achievements
to   Mrs. Kiesel and to the   academic advisor (via e-mail) with the following details:
- list of modules, that should be credited and what you are expecting them to be credited for
- a module description of the courses that should be credited, at best a link to this description
- a copy of the transcripts, that list the modules in question
After we received your request the study commission will discuss about it and the accepted modules will be added to your transcript.

Q: Regarding the application Area "Economics" -- which courses from the master's program "Economics" can be picked to complete the application area?

A: By decision of the study committee, of the four mandatory modules in the master program "Economics" the modules "Advanced Mathematics" and "Advanced Econometrics" cannot be picked for the application area. They are too close to our master's program and students from the master SC should already know most of the content.

The other two "Advanced microeconomics" and  "Advanced macroeconomics" as well as all elective modules and the seminars (if you get a seat in them!) can be picked.

Q: What about "Computational Physics" as application area?

A: Many faculties are offering own courses to teach basics in mathematics & computer science. These courses are "off limits" for our students: They do not count towards the application area.

However, some "package deals" include single modules from this group. This is a compromise to make the package deals self-contained and manageable. The course combinations in the package deals are confirmed *in this exact combination*. Picking several courses from different package deals (modules near to maths & computer science) will not be confirmed by the study committee. 

General advice: Select courses from the application area itself: Real physics courses in physics, real economics courses in economics. Granted, many of these courses also teach maths, but this is the natural effect of maths as a language of models.

Q: I did lecture/seminar module XYZ last term. Does it count towards my specialization in "Simulation & Optimization"?

A: The master's program has a rather direct approach to define specializations. The specialization is usually difficult to define beforehand. Instead, all modules directly influencing your master research project are part of your specialization.

The selection is defined by the thesis advisor. When you start your research project, the thesis advisor will check your modules and compile a list of those modules that he/she sees fitting as directly linked to your research. Any of these modules (from Maths & CS) can count towards your load in the "specialization". This is one of the reasons why you should contact possible thesis supervisors early.

Remark: The specializations listed on the web pages for the master's program can be regarded as examples for specializations. Usually it is not a problem for a student to fill the mandatory specialization credits.

Q: Do activities as tutor count towards FÜK?

A: Activities as a tutor cannot be credited for FÜK. In 2014 university regulations were changed and paid activities may no longer be credited for FÜK.

Q: How do I apply for the research oriented master track and membership in HGS MathComp?

A: The early membership option for master students is meant for students who start their master research project and have an above-average grade score. The application is done through your supervisor: (S)he has to write an application letter to the graduate school stating that

  • your grades so far are exceptional (CV and transcript)
  • your master topic can be a basis for a PhD project and
  • should you continue to develop in the same track, (s)he will offer you a PhD position in the work group.

Based on such a recommendation, the coordinators of the graduate school will decide on your master student membership within 4 weeks. Optionally, the school will also offer you a scholarship to fund your research period.

Q: I am almost done with my courses - when do I start my thesis and how do I register it?

A: Finding a thesis supervisor is an important task for a student. You should talk to potential supervisors already during your 2nd semester and make sure to find a supervisor as early as possible. The supervisor might ask you to complete additional courses before you start your thesis.

To work on your thesis, you usually will start with defining the current state-of-the-art in the topic of your research. This will be done by reading relevant publications to familiarize yourself with the research topic.

Once you start your research, you have to register your master's thesis with the faculty. For this, please collect the relevant document at the faculty office (Ms Kiesel), complete the form and hand it back in.

Remark: According to the examination regulations, §14.2, you can register your master thesis once you have completed and registered 45 credits towards your degree.

Q: The examination regulations (Prüfungsordnung) list a master seminar as a mandatory module. What is that?

A: All students in the scientific computing master's program have to complete three regular seminars at the faculty of mathematics and computer science (listed as seminars for this master's program in LSF):

  • a seminar in mathematics
  • a seminar in computer science (can be replaced by an advanced practical) and
  • a master seminar.

The master seminar is a regular seminar in mathematics or computer science. However, you cannot select freely what seminar to attend, but you have to follow the guidelines of your thesis supervisor when choosing the master seminar. Usually s*he will ask you to attend one of his regular seminars - or s*he can point you to a suitable other seminar. The topic of this seminar should be chosen in preparation of your thesis, but the master seminar is not a seminar about your thesis research.

Remark: At the end of the thesis, the student gives an open presentation on the finding of his/her thesis research. This presentation is part of your thesis. It has nothing to do with your master seminar (see above!). Note that the master's program in applied computer science has different regulations!

Q: Does the university or faculty ask for any specific format of the master thesis - font, spacing, referencing style ?

A: While there is no general layout from Heidelberg University for all master thesis, certain informal standards were established over the course the years.

Students in the natural sciences mostly write their thesis in   LaTeX. Using the template of the Faculty for Physics & Astronomy, we generated a template that can be downloaded and used for the basic layout of your thesis:   master thesis template (LaTeX). Using this template, your document will look like this   master thesis (PDF).

Information Material

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