Refugees at universities: How the DAAD is helping

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Many refugees have gained university entrance qualification in their home country, or had commenced or completed a degree programme there. In order to make it easier for them to take up study in Germany, the DAAD has developed an extensive range of new measures. The following is an overview of the most important measures.

When it comes to integrating refugees, education plays a central role. More than half of the refugees arriving in Germany are younger than 25 – in other words, an age when education is most needed. With funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the DAAD has developed a set of targeted measures to enable universities to offer those who wish to study and possess sufficient academic qualification access to higher education. In this way, the DAAD is helping to promote refugee integration.

Approximately 100 million euros in funding will be available in the coming years, 27 million euros of which is earmarked for projects in 2016. With funding from the BMBF, the DAAD has developed an extensive package of long-term measures. This package is comprised of three components which form the basis for ensuring access to university study.

  • Recognising skills and qualifications
  • Ensuring academic qualification: Language and subject-related preparation
  • Supporting integration at universities

Component 1: Recognising skills and qualifications

TestAS, uni-assist and onSET for refugees

Refugees who are potentially qualified for university study arrive with a wide range of language skills and abilities. Precisely determining what these abilities are, whether they qualify them for study and where support is needed, facilitates integration into regular degree programmes and contributes to academic success. This is achieved through an initial advising session, diagnostic testing procedures and the assessment of certificates of academic qualification.

Click here for more information on the TestAS, uni-assist and onSET for refugees.

Component 2: Ensuring academic qualification: Language and subject-related preparation

The funding programme: “Integrating Refugees in Degree Programmes” (Integra)

Preparatory colleges (Studienkollegs), foundation courses and comparable programmes at German universities prepare young foreigners without university entrance qualification for the rigours of university study. Participants learn fundamental subject-specific knowledge and terminology, and develop individual learning strategies and social skills. The German federal government has agreed to finance some 2,400 additional places at preparatory colleges and comparable university programmes in the next four years. In addition, the universities themselves are preparing refugees for admission to their degree programmes with supplementary language and preparatory courses.

Click here for more information on the funding programme “Integrating Refugees in Degree Programmes” (Integra).

Component 3: Supporting integration at universities

The funding programme: “Welcome - Students Helping Refugees”

Many students are volunteering their time to help refugees become integrated at German universities. Their efforts are contributing to the refugees’ academic success and social integration. These measures include, for example, buddy and mentoring programmes at several universities, as well as language-learning projects headed by teacher trainees and students of German Language Studies. Such projects are funded by the federal government, which in itself is recognition of the important contribution the students are making. The programme’s funding supports students and their projects at the universities by offering them employment contracts and covering the cost of materials.

Click here for more information on the funding programme “Welcome - Students Helping Refugees”.

Other programmes and measures for refugees

The funding programme: “NRWege ins Studium. Integrating refugees into universities in North Rhine-Westphalia”

At 30 NRW universities, refugees who wish to study and are qualified to do so are enrolled in intensive courses preparing them for academic studies. They not only improve their language skills to reach the level necessary for academic studies; they also attend specialised subject tutorials or gather initial experience, or even ECTS, in courses and lectures. Study-integrated courses in academic writing, subject-matter terminology or rhetoric are offered for students with a refugee background. Intensive guidance and support at the university help students successfully begin and complete their academic studies. The programme is funded with up to 30 million euros a year by the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Research in North Rhine-Westphalia (MIWF).

New information services for refugees

The new website “Information for Refugees – Studying and Living in Germany” is targeted at refugees who have arrived in Germany and wish to begin or continue their studies. The homepage and FAQs are available in six different languages, including Arabic, Dari, Pashtu and Urdu, and provide users with an overview of key topics related to university study in Germany. The capacity of the DAAD Info Center was also expanded to meet the increasing demand for information on studying in Germany.

Click here to visit the website “Information for Refugees – Studying and Living in Germany”, a service provided by the “Study in Germany - Land of Ideas” information portal.

BAföG for refugees

“Tolerated” refugees and those who hold residence permits on humanitarian grounds are no longer required to live in Germany for four years before they can receive BAföG, but can now apply for financial aid after only 15 months. Recognised refugees who are currently studying have the possibility to apply for BAföG immediately. Because BAföG support is a statutory benefit, its financing is not included among the set of measures listed above.

Special programme for university employees at the international DAAD Academy

Also in  2018 and 2019, the international DAAD Academy (iDA) offers a special programme to university employees who advise refugees on a daily basis, provide them orientation at university, organise German courses and teach German. The programme will also develop a number of seminars for instructors whose classes and lectures are attended by refugees as guests or regular students.

Download the Special iDA-Programm 2019 - Advising and Supervision of Students with a Refugee Backbround (in German only, PDF, 1 MB).

Other publications

Publications and info materials on refugee integration at German universities are published on a continual basis. One of these is the DAAD alumni magazine LETTER. The 03/15 issue (PDF, 9 MB) highlights the theme “Escape and Integration”. It presents the measures and programmes which the DAAD and universities have put in place to help refugees fulfil the admission requirements for university study. Click here to view other downloads and publications (available in German only).


German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD
University Programmes for Refugees - P43
Ms. Katharina Fourier
Head of the section
Tel.: +49 (0)228 882-259