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Which general or specialized access qualifications are required to study at the different types of higher education institutions? What else do you need? And are there any options to enroll at university without any formal access qualification?
Types of access qualification required by higher education institutions
With the general qualification to study at a higher education institution (allgemeine Hochschulreife) or an acknowledged comparable qualification you are eligible to study at any higher education institution in Germany.
If you earned a specialized qualification to study at a higher education institution (fachgebundene Hochschulreife) you can study the subjects relating to the major specified on your school report card (social sciences, technology, business, etc.) at any higher education institution.
The qualification to study at a university of applied sciences (Fachhochschulreife) or an acknowledged comparable qualification enables you to participate in study programs at universities of applied sciences. In Bavaria, you also can attain specialized qualification to study at a university of applied sciences (fachgebundene Fachhochschulreife) that allows you to study specific subjects at these institutions.
Some restrictions to enroll at higher education institutions apply to specific federal states only. They are typically specified on your school report card.
To participate in a study program for teachers of art or music, you need to have a general (or, in some states, a specialized) qualification to study at a higher education institution (allgemeine Hochschulreife or, respectively, fachgebundene Hochschulreife).
In the states of Brandenburg and Hesse, you can also complete (bachelor) study programs at universities if you have attained a qualification to study at a university of applied sciences. In Lower Saxony, this qualification allows you to study your specialized field at a university or a comparable higher education institution. In Baden-Württemberg, you can complete a bachelor's program at a university if you have attained the qualification to study at a university of applied sciences or, if you attained specialized qualification to study at a higher education institution, you can study a subject other than the one specified on your school report card provided you have the knowledge or skills required (Delta examination).
Depending on the study program, you will be required to provide additional subject-specific certifications (e.g., a practicum or an art- or sports-related admission test).
For details, please contact the admission office of the respective institution.
From a university of applied science to a university
Foto: Alex Becker / Bundesagentur für Arbeit
There are different regulations in the federal states to switch from a university of applied science to a university. As a rule you receive the general qualification for university entrance by a degree at a university of applied science. Switching between the course of study at a university of applied science to an equal or similar subject at a university is regulated differently in the federal states. In Bavaria and other federal states you need to have acquired 60 ECTS points after two semesters.
As long as the specific entry requirements of the master’s program are met, it is possible to study a master’s program at a university when a bachelor’s degree was gained at a university of applied science. Master’s degrees acquired at a university of applied science, qualify for a doctorate at universities or similar colleges.
Access to higher education institutions for qualified professionals
Currently, all federal states have special regulations in place that stipulate that qualified professionals have access to general or specialized study programs. These regulations are based on a resolution adopted by the Conference of Ministers of Education (Kultusministerkonferenz, KMK) in March 2009 that enables qualified professionals to study at higher education institutions based on specific country-wide criteria:
Persons who completed a master examination (Meisterprüfung) in line with the crafts regulations (Handwerksordnung, HWO); persons who completed at least 400 hours of any comprehensive higher education program as set out in the professional education regulations (Berufsbildungsgesetz)(e.g., Fachwirt) or as set out in the HWO; persons who attained a degree from a vocational school (Fachschulabschluss) (e.g., engineers); as well as persons who attained comparable qualification have the general qualification to study at a higher education institution (allgemeine Hochschulzugangsberechtigung) that applies to all subjects and all higher education institutions.
Professionals who completed an apprenticeship over a minimum period of two years and have at least three years of work experience can be granted specialized access to an institution of higher education (fachgebundene Studienberechtigung) provided they passed the qualification or admission test or, depending on the federal state, completed a probationary study program for at least one year. The planned subject must correspond with the students’ previous professional orientation.
The federal states have the right to grant access to institutions to other persons as well. The resolution adopted by the Conference of Ministers of Education does not apply directly but must be incorporated into state law. We suggest you contact the institution to ask about conditions for access. For state-specific information on participating in a study program if you have not completed the Abitur, please refer to www.studieren-ohne-abitur.de, a website developed by the Centrum für Hochschulentwicklung (CHE) in cooperation with Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wirtschaft e.V.
Attaining the qualification to study at a higher education institution in retrospect
To study at a higher education institution if you have not attained the required qualification in school, you can complete the required courses in retrospect. In German, this process is referred to as the Zweite Bildungsweg (second course of education).
Find comprehensive information on the topic published by the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit) at www.arbeitsagentur.de and on the Deutsche Bildungsserver at www.eduserver.de (enter Zweiter Bildungsweg in the search field).
Foreign education certificates
Prospective students with foreign education certificates generally meet the qualification requirements for studying in Germany, if their education certificate allows them to study in their homeland and if they meet the criteria stipulated by the Zentralstelle für ausländisches Bildungswesen of the Conference of Ministers of Education published at anabin.kmk.org.
In addition to this they have to prove the required knowledge of the German language.
In general, the university at which the study should begin their studies, decides on the recognition of certificates within the scope of admission procedure. The admission is always limited to the certain course of study, which means that if there will be a change of subject, a new decision is necessary. The federal states of Germany can establish a central certification authority for the needs of evaluating foreign education certificates.
Approvals and rejections regarding qualification to study at a higher education institution granted by the office for accreditation of school report cards (Zeugnisanerkennungsstelle) in the respective federal state apply throughout Germany, as long as they are not limited to a certain state. At anabin.kmk.org you can find the addresses of these offices. For about 150 German universities (state and private institutions) www.uni-assist.de/index_en.html is conducting the test process by order of the university.
Applicants with foreign education certificates for study programs like medicin, veterinary medicine, dentistry and pharmacy need to apply for these study programs with hochschulstart.de. This foundation in Dortmund sets the admission qualification in the context of the application procedure. That is the case for applicants from a EU-Country, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway respectively for other nationals who have gained a university entrance qualification in Germany. German citizens, who graduated school in a foreign country apply to hochschulstart.de, too. The decisions of the universities and of hochschulstart.de are recognized by each other.
If no matching references are availiable and no direct university access can be attested, the applicants have to pass the so called “Feststellungsprüfung” (an aptitude test) before they can begin their studies. In general, the applicants have to complete a prep-year at a Studienkolleg in this case. If there is no classification regarding the application suggestion, the responsible federal agency is in charge of a decision.
What else do you need?
Knowledge of the German language
To study at a higher education institution in Germany, you have to possess sufficient knowledge of the German language. An exception are “International Degree Programs”, which are offered in English language at the beginning. Knowledge of the German language can be verified by tests either in your home country or in Germany. You will find details about language courses on the websites of the Goethe Institution (www.goethe.de/en/index.html) as well as on the website www.sprachnachweis.de. The German Academic Exchange Service can offer you comprehensive information (www.daad.de/en/).
Especially if you want to study art, design, interior design, music, drama or sports, you generally will be required to furnish proof of your qualification. Depending on the program, you may be asked to submit an excerpt from your creative works, attend an audition, play on your main and your second instrument or take a sports performance or qualification test. As part of their internal selection processes, institutions increasingly are asking candidates who wish to enter other study programs to pass a test, for example, on their ability to study the desired subject or on their foreign language skills. Please note that regulations may vary among federal states. If you can furnish proof of special or outstanding artistic talent and your level of general knowledge is sufficient to apply at an institution, you may be eligible to participate in certain art, drama, design or music study programs even if you have not attained the qualification to study at a higher education institution. Tip: Because most of these qualification tests are conducted before the general application deadlines expire, obtain specific information on deadlines, required application documents and other details approximately one and a half years before you plan to begin your study program.
Knowledge of other languages
The examination regulations of certain study programs request knowledge of foreign languages, which have to be proven at the beginning of the studies or during studies. The Student Advisory Service at your university can help you with this matter. Even if the knowledge of foreign languages is not obligatory for a specific study course, it can be important for the successful studies or to get an attractive job afterwards. Most universities offer a wide range of different language courses with certificates.
Older Philologies: Some study programs (mostly in humanities such as German, philosophy or history as well as for teaching professions) require knowledge of Latin. Even though not all institutions require proof of knowledge of Latin to be furnished at the beginning of the study program, you may need this knowledge for your studies. In general, to obtain a Bachelor of Education for teaching professions you will not be required to know Latin, but some federal states require this knowledge for the Master of Education. It depends on the single study program and the university whether, when and to which extent knowledge in Latin is necessary. Contact the examination office or department of the respective institution or a student counselor (Studienberatungsstelle).
For theology studies you generally need a Graecum and a Hebraicum.
Newer Philologies: The universities can choose applicants for study programs in newer philologies, like anglistics, on the basis of language tests. Usually you will need to pass the test at the university. But in some cases the test can be replaced by a language certificate like the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or the DELF (Diplôme d'Etudes en Langue Française). In addition, you may have to pass a placement test at the beginning of the semester that will be used as a basis for study counseling and for selecting the courses that suit you best.
Prepcourses and internships
Some universities offer special prepcourses to complement or refresh school knowledge, for example in mathematics or foreign languages. The universities can provide you with information about their courses.
Applicants from abroad can participate at comprehensive propaedeutic Proposals, which are performed during the semester before the studies.
You may also need to complete internships before study in some study programs. Most universities of applied sciences require proof of a preliminary internship (Vorpraktikum) before you are admitted; the duration may be a few weeks or a few months, depending on the institution. A relevant apprenticeship or an equivalent job in a volunteer service can replace an internship either fully or partially under certain conditions. You should inform yourself at your university as early as possible about possibilities to complete your internship during your semester break. There are exceptions for students with disabilities and chronic diseases.
Tip: Doint an internship before the begin of studies can be a good idea even if it is not mandatory. That way, you can test your motivation and suitability for the planned studies as well as your future job.
Info: Prepcourses often start before the approval documents from hochschulstart.de or the universities are sent out. Because of that you should enroll even if you are not completely certain if you will obtain a study permit to a specific university.