When considering overseas tertiary education, many Hong Kong students overlook studying in Germany, where internationally recognised higher education is inexpensive compared with many other destinations. 'People are often surprised to find that higher education for overseas students is generally free in Germany, as it is for locals,' says Dr Sylvia Brandt, director of the DAAD Information Centre Hong Kong and Macau. She says that in Germany, there is a strong conviction that education - including masters and PhD studies - should be available to all, regardless of financial status. Top students can also expect good funding possibilities, such as grants and scholarships, for PhD and research in Germany. As a result, students can choose a programme that matches their individual needs, often at a fraction of the cost of studying elsewhere. Brandt adds that the study environment tends to be liberal and encourages the exchange of thoughts and ideas. Students studying in Germany have access to affordable travel and the opportunity to explore the cultural diversity of Europe. 'An important part of our message is to inform Hong Kong students looking for high-level academic programmes that Germany is an excellent study and research destination,' says Brandt, adding that German universities look for high- calibre students and that application standards are similar to applying to a Hong Kong university. Also known as German Academic Exchange Service, the DAAD is an independent partnership of German higher education institutions that encourages international students and researchers to study in Germany. 'Our economy is built on knowledge and technology. Therefore, through making education affordable for all, including attracting top international students and researchers, the process is in place to build a network for the future,' says Brandt, adding that, as China's largest single European trading partner, German companies seek German-educated, Chinese-speaking staff to work both in Europe and Asia. Brandt says Hong Kong students should not worry about the language. 'Those studying in Germany or learning the language before they go to study manage very well,' she says. International degree programmes have varying German requirements. Some undergraduate programmes are in English, but many expect applicants to have better-than-average German, which can be acquired rather quickly, Brandt says.