Studying for free in Germany as a refugee

A very good news is there for you as regards of your higher education, as a recent refugee who got to Germany! Well, yes, you can study in Germany same as other international students, especially if you have received the asylum, granted refugee or “tolerated”-the application still processing status.

Holding one of the refugee statuses, you surely can apply to get admission in a certain German university. The admission criteria applying to you is similar to that of any international student who seeks to pursue higher education in any German university.

German higher education institutions and study levels

In Germany there are three categories of higher education institutions: Universities, Universities of Applied Sciences followed by Colleges of Art, Film and Music. Mainly universities and universities of applied sciences are publicly funded, offering free tuition studies, while colleges tend to be expensive since most of them are privately owned.

There are three study levels of higher education that you can get in:

  • Undergraduate studies (Bachelor) – dedicated to first time students,
  • Graduate studies (Master studies) – dedicated to bachelor studies graduates,
  • Postgraduate studies (Doctoral studies) – dedicated to students who have received their master degree.

Associated with this, the followings are the study degrees you can get:

  • Bachelor Degree (BA, BSc, BSEng)

6-8 semester program, 3 to 4 years, giving 180 up to 240 ECTS Credits

  • Master Degree (MA, MSc, MEng)

2-4 semester program, 1 to 2 years, giving 60 up to 120 ECTS Credits

  • Philosophiae Doctor (Doctor of Philosophy) Degree (Ph.D.)

4-10 semester program, together with the research work (dissertation) completed by a doctorate.

Higher education study programmes

There are 1784 international study programmes where you can pursue your dreamed university studies. Some universities might also offer free courses exclusively dedicated to refugees and asylum seekers, where a list of such universities can be reached here.

University admission criteria

The university admission conditions, as aforementioned, applied to you as a refugee, are the same as to any other international student. Click here to find what kind of documents you need to submit in order for you to apply at a German university.

Proof of language proficiency (German and/or English)

Most of German universities have their programmes offered in German languages, however, there are also a lot of international programmes offered in English language only or with a combination with a German and other languages. Click here to find out more information!

Proof a Health Insurance Coverage

As any other applicant, you must proof having the proper health insurance coverage for the period of your studies. There are two types of health insurances in Germany: public (statutory) and private.

There are several health insurance companies in Germany, public and private. For the public ones there are AOK Baden Württemberg, Barmer GEK, DAK – Gesundheit, KKH – Kaufmännische Krankenkasse, TK – Techniker Krankenkasse.

For more information, please read Health Insurance for Refugees in Germany

Proof GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) scores

In some cases the university might require from you proving you have passed the GMAT test. This is especially required for business programmes, mostly when applying for master level studies.

Visit the official GMAT website for more information.

Proof GRE (Graduate Record Examination) scores

This is one of the most required test from the graduate and business schools around the world and some German universities might require it too.

Visit the official GRE website for the additional information.

Proof of refugee status in Germany

You must prove you enjoy the status of the refugee in Germany. Learn more about asylum and refugees in Germany more on the website of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.

Passport copies

The university will also require from you submitting passport copies of the valid passport.

Passport photos

The university will require also providing passport photos, which will be needed for your university ID and your identification.

Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Another required document, not always is the Curriculum Vitae or CV. This is a document with at the last two pages, where you provide personal data, information about all the so-far attainments in formal and non-formal education and if any, work experience. The information you provide, must be in chronological order and typically in the European format “EUROPASS”.

Letter of motivation

Letter of motivation, also known as a Cover Letter in the United States, is typically a one page document, where you express your motivation to apply for the programme, mentioning all the education, skills and any work experience that relates to the programme you are applying. The motivation letter must be clear, original and must have specific objectives, stating how this programme could help you grow a better person in a job or a project.

Recommendation Letter

Some universities might also require from you to provide a letter of recommendation from your earlier professor about your past academic performance.


It is very common for universities requiring from you to submit an essay, where you provide few reasons why you think the programme you are applying will improve your future professional and personal goals in specific.

Note: The application deadline is another factor of a successful application. In case you lack meeting submission deadline, there is a guaranteed reality that your application will be dismissed being considered and reviewed. Therefore, make sure to recall that most universities in Germany have their open application period for the winter semester from the end of May to 15th of July, while for summer semester from the beginning of December o 15th of January. Also, try to not send the application at the last minute, since the university might require additional documents from you after the application submission.

Application process at the university

When deciding to apply for a university programme, keep in mind that there are a few ways to submit the application, depending on the programme that you are applying for.

As there are many more candidates than open places to study,  Germany has decided to apply restraints on university admissions, known as “Numerus Clausus” or NC.

There are two main different restrictions:

  • Central NC or “Zentraler NC” – as for this category, restriction applies nationally, all over Germany,
  • Local NC – restriction for this category applies only to particular universities.

Subject to restrictions applied for the study programme and to the applicant’s country of origin, there are three eligible channels to submit the application:

Note: Be aware that the majority of universities uses the following deadlines to notify applicants on the admission or rejection. Notifications for the winter semester the acceptance letters are usually sent out in August to September and rejection letters are sent out in September to October, while, for the summer semester the acceptance letters are sent out in February to March and rejection letters are sent out in March to April. In case you don’t receive a notification during this period, then writing an email to require information on your application is a must.

Enrollment at the University

Once you get admitted as a student in a German higher education institution, the next process is getting enrolled or “matriculated” in studies. This process involves applying to get your courses registered, in order to be able to enroll in the academic lectures and exercises as well as to undergo the examination.

For more information please click: Enrolling at a German University!

Do not also forget, German universities are interested to make new refugee students comfy, offering special welcoming programmes such as:

  • Guest auditing of courses,
  • Trial courses,
  • Transition courses,
  • Orientation courses,
  • Supplementary courses

Supporting Centers for Refugees

Despite their main mission, which is educating generations, German universities have advance their services offering counseling support for their local and international students in many other areas, such as in living aspects, accomodation, work, legal issues and so on. Therefore, universities have their International Offices “Akademisches Auslandsamt” where they can ask for support.

Moreover, to respond the need for support of the refugee students in Germany, the country has opened its free Refugee law clinics, where these students can address their legal issues, dealing with in a daily life inside and outside the university and get free legal advising.

Such clinics are found in the following  cities:

Getting refugees funds

As you hold the refugee status in Germany according to the  section 8, paragraph 2, No. 1 of the Federal Law on Support in Education (Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz, BAföG), you are eligible to apply for getting funded from the BAföG funds for refugees, where the allowable annual amount is 4,800 EUR.

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