Information for refugees who wish to study in Germany
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Third country nationals whose entitlement to asylum has been recognised (residence in Germany in line with the section 25.1 or 25.2 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz – AufenthG) as well as refugees having a residence permit according to the section 23.1 and 23.2 of the German Residence Act are eligible to study at German institutions of higher education.
Moreover, asylum seekers being in process of asylum application and having a temporary residence permit called "Aufenthaltsgestattung" may, in principle, attend university unless their residence permit contains an explicit restraint on studying (Studienverbot).
If regular studying is not possible, at some German institutions of higher education you may enrol as a guest student or participate in a Taster Course Programme in this time. Such courses may count as credits towards your degree if you commence regular studying later on.
One of the main requirements for admission to a higher education programme in Germany is the so-called "Hochschulzugangsberechtigung" (HZB), or higher education entrance qualification.
The Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB) of the Standing Conference of German Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK) provides information on foreign school-leaving certificates and their recognition for admission to higher education in Germany.
For those who already have a foreign higher education degree, an official Statement of Comparability can be issued. Referring to this statement, German institutions of higher education, which are responsible for recognizing foreign degrees and academic credits for the purpose of university admissions and access to advanced study, can decide on recognition of foreign educational qualifications.
For applicants with a foreign higher education entrance qualification, the University Application Service for International Students - uni-assist - evaluates, on behalf of numerous German universities, education certificates and provides information whether the admission requirements for a university study in Germany are met.
In any case, it is recommendable to contact the concerned institution of higher education first in order to clarify how to proceed for recognition of foreign qualifications.
If documents confirming higher education entrance qualification or an enrolment for a higher education programme at the home country have gone lost while fleeing, German institutions of higher education are requested to check and assess whether the admission requirements are still met.
Such an assessment is to be based on the legal framework adopted by the Standing Conference of German Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs in its Resolution (dated 03.12.2015 and available in German only) on how to deal with applicants who cannot prove their higher education entrance qualification or an enrolment for a higher education programme at the home country.
Furthermore, since 2007 the European Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region has been effective in Germany. The Section VII of this Convention deals with the recognition of qualifications held by refugees, displaced persons and persons in a refugee-like situation.
For the practical verification of the higher education entrance qualification the European Recognition Manual can be taken into account. The manual describes how the educational background of refugees, displaced persons or persons in a refugee-like situation can be reconstructed involving those – often incomplete –documents and supporting evidence that the applicant is able to provide. In addition, the assessment procedure could also include specially arranged examinations, interviews with staff of higher education institutions in order to verify whether the eligibility requirements for admission to higher education are fulfilled.
In Germany, the majority of higher education institutions are financed by the state and charge low or no tuition fees. An overview of tuition fees for every German federal state gives the Website www.studis-online.de. Some universities waive tuition fees for refugees. Please contact the Welcome Centre or the International Office of the concerned university for further information.
Academic refugees enrolled as students at German higher education institutions may be eligible for funding in accordance with the "Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz" (Federal Training Assistance Act) or "BAföG".
According to the § 8 of the BAföG (available in German only) third country nationals may apply if they are
- recognised refugees;
- stateless people;
- foreigners who have been granted a temporary suspension of deportation (in accordance with the section 60a of the German Residence Act if they have had their permanent residence in Germany for at least four years (15 months from winter semester 2016/2017 on) on a legitimate basis.
Anyone applying for an international course is not required to demonstrate German language skills. Instead, a certificate/proof in another language (normally English) is required.
For further information we recommend contacting the Welcome Centre of the concerned institution of higher education.
Apart from international study programmes, courses at German universities are generally held in German. Foreign applicants are, therefore, required to take an examination proving their German language skills.
Applicants interested in studying at a German university can find information on German language certificates accepted for admission under www.sprachnachweis.de. The information is sorted by type of university/higher education institution, place of study, course of study and degree.
According to § 3 respectively § 4 of the Framework Regulation on German Language Exams to Study at a German University or an Institution of Higher Education (in German) adopted by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany, the DSH – (German language test for admission to university for international applicants) or the German as a foreign language test (TestDaF) are accepted for a proof of sufficient German language skills.
The DSH can only be taken in Germany and is autonomously administered by universities. Applicants interested in studying should contact the Welcome Centre of the respective university for more information on where and when the examination will be held and how much the fee for participation in the DSH examination is. DSH examinations usually take place at the respective university three to four weeks prior to the beginning of the new semester.
The TestDaF examination can be taken either in Germany or at one of the 400 test centres in 90 countries worldwide. It takes place six times a year. The examination Dates are set by the TestDaF Institute that also provides information on the examination fees.
According to paragraph 8 of the Framework Regulation on German Language Exams to Study at a German University or Institution of Higher Education it is possible to demonstrate your sufficient German language skills with the following language examination:
Goethe-Cerificate C 2 respectively. Großes Deutsches Sprachdiplom (GDS) of the Goethe-Instituts.
The German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) gives an overview of language courses, offered especially for asylum. With the help of the WebGIS search engine, local organizations offering German language courses can be found.
For further information please also refer to the section Language courses on our homepage.