Academic Recognition

Diploma on doctoral cap with books
© Gina Sanders / Fotolia

German institutes of higher education are responsible for the recognition of foreign school qualifications which may lead to admission to study for a first degree at a German institute of higher education. This also applies to the credit transfer of higher education and examination performances acquired abroad. These procedures are not covered by the Recognition Act.

Access to undergraduate courses at German institutions of higher education

In principle, access to a course of study at a German institution of higher education is possible with foreign secondary school-leaving qualifications. The precondition is that the qualifications represent a university entrance qualification in accordance with the legal provisions in the country in which they were acquired. As a rule, applicants from Member States of the European Union and the European Economic Area (EU/EEA states) who are eligible to study in their native countries can be admitted directly to a course of study in Germany. In these cases and in the case of applicants from non-EU states, the International Students' Office (Akademisches Auslandsamt) or the registrar's office at the institution of higher education where the applicant would like to study considers whether the school qualifications are sufficient for commencing a course of study or whether admission is possible following a preparatory course or an assessment test. The basis for this are the assessment proposals of the anabin database.

Those with vocational qualifications can also obtain a study place at a German institute of higher education. This means that a higher education entrance qualification acquired at school is not absolutely necessary. In order for those in possession of a vocational qualification to be admitted to a higher education course of study, the foreign vocational qualification (the formal qualification itself and any occupational experience that may have been gained) must be recognised as being equivalent to a German vocational qualification. Further information is available here.

A suitable institution of higher education in Germany can be found using the Higher Education Compass. People applying for courses with limited access (Numerus Clausus, NC) submit their applications to the University Admissions Foundation, or, in the case of subjects which only have a regional NC, to the university itself. German citizens who have gained higher education entrance qualifications abroad must have these recognized by the office for the recognition of academic certification of the respective Land or by the institution of higher education concerned.

Alternatively, admission to an initial course of higher education study can take place via recognition of the school qualification by the relevant state recognition body. This certificate recognition incurs a charge, but may also be submitted in other procedures for which evidence of school qualifications needs to be provided (e.g. applications for vocational education and training, on the labour market etc.).

Recognition of academic achievements and access to advanced courses of study

The respective institution of higher education is responsible for recognizing academic achievements and qualifications. The respective Länder Examination Offices are responsible for courses that lead to a state examination. They must assess the educational background of the applicants to classify them for a German course of study. Information is available from the International Students' Office or the registrar's office of the institution of higher education. The International Students' Office is also responsible for admission to Master's and doctorate degree courses.

Foreign Academic Degrees

Questions regarding the use of foreign academic degrees and titles should be addressed to the ministry of science of the respective Land. As a rule, it is possible to use the academic degree or title in the original language – this is also stipulated in the Länder higher education laws. It is not possible to convert a foreign academic degree or title into a German academic degree or title. The only exception is in the case of ethnic German resettlers. The anabin database provides further information on the recognition of foreign higher education qualifications.

Legal basis for academic recognition

The legal basis varies depending on the purpose of recognition and the country of origin. The provisions of the Lisbon Convention apply to qualifications and degrees in the signatory states of the convention. The following agreements apply to states which have not ratified the Lisbon Convention (in so far as they have been ratified in the respective state):

  • European Convention on the Equivalence of Diplomas Leading to Admission to University
  • European Convention on the Equivalence of Periods of University Study
  • European Convention on the Academic Recognition of University Qualifications
  • European Convention on the General Equivalence of Periods of University Study

These conventions can be found on the website of the Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB) of the Secretariat of the Conference of Länder Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs.

General information on studying in Germany is provided by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).