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Studying as a refugee: Paths to studying at a German university

As a refugee, you are eligible to study at a German university, especially when your refugee status is recognised. In terms of applying and gaining admission to a degree programme, you will be treated just like any other international student applicant. Many universities offer special programmes for refugees, such as trial courses.

by the Editors

Students at the university © Hagenguth/DAAD
Students at the university . © Hagenguth/DAAD

General information

As a rule, refugees are allowed to study at German universities. Normally you won’t encounter any problems if your status is recognised (entitled to asylum, granted refugee protection etc.). The same applies if your application for asylum is still being processed or if you only hold a “tolerated” status.

General information for asylum seekers is available on the website of the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. If you wish to consult with someone in your area, you can find the addresses of all the state refugee counselling centres.

The website of the Goethe-Institut provides answers to many questions foreigners have about living in Germany.

You might also be interested in visiting the website “workeer”, a job portal for refugees.

The website Recognition in Germany informs about the recognition of foreign professional qualifications.

Requirements

The procedures for applying and gaining admission to a German degree programme are the same for you as for other international university applicants. You must have a university entrance qualification and sufficient language skills. The language of instruction at German universities is usually German. However, there are many courses and degree programmes offered in English, particularly master’s degree programmes. Depending on the programme, you might have to have further qualifications and provide additional documents with your application, such as a letter of motivation.

If you have already studied at university, you can have your coursework and certificates recognised in Germany. Visit the ANABIN website for more information about having your academic certificates recognised (only in German). Please note that the university, at which you are applying, is solely responsible for reviewing and recognising your previous academic achievement.

If your secondary school-leaving certificate does not automatically qualify you for admission to German university, you will have to take a test called the “Feststellungsprüfung” (qualification assessment examination). You can prepare for this test by attending a foundation course in Germany. Foundation courses are programmes at universities which offer subject-related courses in specific disciplines.

Study opportunities

Many universities offer special programmes for refugees, e.g.:

  • Courses auditing
  • Trial courses
  • Transition courses or orientation programmes
  • Supplementary courses

In most cases, these courses and programmes are free of charge. Some universities even offer partial credit for completed courses if and when you enrol in a regular degree programme. We suggest inquiring about the specific options available to you at the university where you wish to study.

View a map listing the universities which offer free courses to refugees along with contact details. (This map is not associated with or coordinated by the DAAD. The responsible coordinater is Anna Schmauder.)

Advising services

You can get more information about studying in Germany at the International Office at the university in your city. The staff at the International Office can help you choose a suitable degree programme, evaluate your certificates and plan your next steps. Some universities have counsellors specifically responsible for refugees. Inquire about them at your nearest International Office. You can find a list of contact partners at the International Offices on the DAAD website.

The Academic Advising Office at the University Guarantee Fund helps young immigrants continue or commence studies in Germany. The counselling sessions on location are free of charge. There are 21 advising offices throughout Germany. You can make an appointment on their website.

Initiated by German law students, Refugee Law Clinics offer free legal counselling to refugees. Currently, you can find Refugee Law Clinics in Berlin, Cologne, Giessen, Leipzig, Regensburg, Saarbrücken and Munich.

Financing

There are various ways to cover your expenses as a student in Germany. The best possibility is to apply for government funding called “BAföG”. Some universities pay for certain fees or waive them altogether. The good news is that German universities charge low or no tuition fees. At present, the DAAD does not offer scholarships exclusively for refugees. Please visit our website for more information about financing your studies.