Study for refugees

More and more people are fleeing from war, violence and political persecution in their home countries and coming to Germany. Among the refugees are many who gained a higher education entrance qualification in their home country or who had started their studies or even completed them. How can higher education institutions support refugees who want to study here in Germany? You will find information about university admission, study-preparation and financial support below.

University admission

Are refugees allowed to study in Germany?
As a basic principle, refugees are allowed to study at a higher education institution, especially if they are recognised refugees, i.e. they have sought asylum or been awarded refugee protection, etc. The same also applies to people who have not yet completed the asylum procedure or who have been granted "exceptional leave to remain" (in German: Duldung) status.

Higher education entrance qualification: How can higher education institutions proceed if proof of the refugee's higher education entrance qualification is incomplete or missing because they lost it when fleeing their home country?

As a rule, the assessment proposals set out by the Central Office for Foreign Education at the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany (KMK-ZAB) apply when checking higher education entrance qualifications (link available in German only).

Refugees have the right to be appropriately tested for their eligibility
If a refugee wants to study but is unable to provide any documents, e.g. school certificates or proof of matriculation, their eligibility must still be tested and assessed.

The basis for this is the Lisbon Recognition Convention (the Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region, Section VII, Article VII), which was signed by 49 European and non-European states. Germany signed it in 2007. According to the Convention, “reasonable steps” must be developed to assess the higher education qualification of refugees, even if this cannot or can only partially be proven through documentary evidence.

Reconstruction of the refugee's study pathway through individual interviews
The specific implementation steps for this are described in the European Recognition Manual. In the proposed procedure, those wanting to study are interviewed to create their individual study pathway. The statements made should be verified using the relevant evidence as far as possible. The higher education institution itself must implement this type of procedure. In addition, eligibility and aptitude tests can provide a basis for testing whether the refugee is qualified for study. Higher education institutions in a number of federal states already apply these or similar procedures.

Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany (KMK)
New Decision on admission to higher education for students without documents:

The Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany (KMK) updated the regulation for the federal states dealing with refugee students who are not able fully prove, or provide other relevant evidence, that they are eligible for university admission to study in their home country. A three phase model gives the German higher education institutions to option to proof the educational biography and open access to higher education also for this special group of refugee students.

Preparations for studying at university

How can refugees be prepared for study, i.e. in terms of language and course content?

Guest students, study taster sessions, bridging courses
In order to introduce refugees who want to study to university life, higher education institutions are offering the opportunity for them to come to events as guest students or as part of a study taster session. These events can sometimes count towards subsequent regular full-time study. Many higher education institutions are also offering bridging courses and/or orientation programmes.

Preparatory courses (Studienkolleg): preparing for the entrance examination
If the refugee cannot be granted direct study admission due to their qualifications, they can prepare for the assessment test by taking a preparatory course with other international students.

Knowledge of the German language as a prerequisite
For refugees with direct or indirect university admission, having sufficient knowledge of the German language is an important prerequisite for successful study. In the same way that other international students need to prove their eligibility, refugees must also be able to furnish proof of obtaining the following:
•    A level 2 grade in the German language proficiency test for university admission, called “Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang” (DSH) in German or
•    A TDN 4 grade in the test of German as a foreign language, called “Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache” (TestDaF) in German.
The DSH test is administered by the higher education institutions or preparatory courses. The TestDaF can be taken in the corresponding TestDaF centres.

Financial support

How can refugees receive financial support and funding?

Waiving fees, bursaries
In order to support refugees, various higher education institutions are waiving or paying off the fees for guest student status, student tickets, administration and admission fees, fees for tests or German-language courses, etc. A number of foundations and organisations are granting bursaries and special language-learning support for those preparing for university life (University Guarantee Funds, site available in German only).

BAföG for refugees
Recognised refugees (recognised asylum seekers, refugees who have been awarded refugee status and/or subsidiary protection, Section 8 Para. 2 No. 1 of the Federal Law on Support in Education, (Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz, BAföG)) can apply for BAföG funding (site available in German only), regardless of how long they have been in Germany.

You can also earn €4,800 a year as a BAföG recipient. From 1 January 2016, the same will apply to those with "exceptional leave to remain" (Duldung) status and those with a residence permit on humanitarian grounds who have been living in Germany for 15 months (period of prior stay).

Asylum seekers whose asylum application is still pending cannot apply for BAföG. They receive support under the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act (Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz, AsylbLG). They will have the right to work after three months, but only after a priority examination (Vorrangprüfung) has been conducted.

Refugee projects in German Higher Education


















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