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Preparation for university study: Getting off to a good start at a university in Germany

Universities offer several ways to prepare for studying in Germany. If your secondary school-leaving certificate does not qualify you for university admission, you must pass a qualification assessment examination (Feststellungsprüfung). You can prepare for this test by participating in a foundation course. University preparatory programmes allow you to prepare for a specific degree programme at a German university.

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Students in a university © Hagenguth/DAAD
Students in a university . © Hagenguth/DAAD

Ways to enrol at German university

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

  • Auditing courses as a guest
  • Taking trial courses
  • Participating in transition courses or orientation programmes
  • Enrolling in supplementary courses

In most cases, these courses and programmes are free of charge. Some universities even offer partial credit for these courses should you ever 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 of German universities which offer free courses to refugees along with contact details.

If your secondary school-leaving certificate is not sufficient

If it turns out that your secondary school-leaving certificate is not recognised in Germany, you will have to attend a foundation course prior to enrolment. At the end of the foundation course, you will be tested in several subjects which are relevant to your chosen major. This test is called the qualification assessment examination (Feststellungsprüfung) and includes a language test.

You will have to take an entrance examination to gain admission to the foundation course. Good German skills are a prerequisite for passing the exam (B1 level of the European Framework of Reference for Languages).

Foundation courses usually take two semesters to complete. If you make very good progress, it is possible to take the qualification assessment exam after just one semester. As a participant in a foundation course, you will receive between 28 and 32 hours of instruction per week.

Almost all foundation courses are free of charge. However, participants of foundation courses have to pay the semester contribution like all students.

Preparatory courses

If you wish to get a master’s degree, you do not have to attend a foundation course. However, you may attend a propaedeutic course which prepares you specifically for the rigours of university study both in terms of language and subject matter. Once you begin your degree programme, you will find it much easier to get accustomed to German academic life.

Programmes are available to foreign students who:

  • Have already gained admission to a university in Germany
  • Have not yet gained admission, but fulfil the formal prerequisites for university study in Germany
  • Must still fulfil the formal prerequisites to gain a university entrance qualification

You can find a listing of propaedeutic courses on the DAAD database.