Hochschulzugangsberechtigung (university entrance certificate)

The terrific tongue twister “Hochschulzugangsberechtigung” (often abbreviated as “HZB”) symbolizes the educational background – especially the school-leaving qualification.

How can my international school-leaving qualification be acknowledged?

To study at a German university you either need an Abitur or a Fachabitur. With a Fachabitur you can only study at the practically oriented “Fachhochschulen”(Universities of Applied sciences”- e.g.: the FH Erfurt, the Ernst-Abbe-Hochschule Jena and the Hochschule Schmalkalden). With an Abitur you are eligible to study at all universities(like the Bauhaus- Universität Weimar, the Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena and the TU Ilmenau). If no (Fach-)Abitur can be provided, only an international school-leaving qualification, this qualification will have to be acknowledged as equal to either form of the Abitur.

Since a countless multitude of different educational systems, types of schools and different degrees exists in the world, this acknowledgement can become very difficult. The official database “Anabin” lists most of the different degrees and also indicates whether they can be acknowledged in Germany. Sadly, the website is only available in German.  On the left side of the website you can select the category “Schulabschlüsse mit Hochschulzugang” (Degrees with university qualification), subsequently it can be switched to “Suchen”(search) in the middle of the screen, which will provide you with a list of the countries

After entering the country into the matrix –  in our case Syria – we can see all the educational attainments to which Anabin has information. These are not only school-leaving qualifications. Here you can find university degrees as well – the category “Schulabschlüsse mit Hochschulzugang”, however, only shows a fraction of the information available on Anabin. More information can be found in the corresponding category on the left.

Example: Acknowledgement of the Syrian General Education Certificate

As an example we may have a look at the Syrian school-leaving qualification and their evaluation which we encounter often in Weimar: the General Education Certificate of the Scientific Section. A click onto this degree opens a pop-up window with information about the acknowledgement. Scrolling down once will show two possible ways of acknowledging this degree – depending on whether the score is between 60% and 69% or above 70%. This means that a degree with a score of less than 60% will not be acknowledged.  If a case like this arises candidates can still acquire the Abitur via the “Zweiter Bildungsweg” (a ‘second chance programme in the german education system) on a night school/adult education centre.

The first section, between 60% and 69%, a so called “bedingte Anerkennung” (conditioned acknowledgement) is described: A candidate either pass an assessment test or participate in a course on a preparatory college with subsequent assessment test(more info below): Furthermore, one year of completed studies in a degree programme can be accounted for – a degree programme of the same or similar kind can then be taken up, on all kinds of universities.

The second section, a score above 70%, has an easier procedure. Such a degree will provide direct access to all German universities.

A applicant with a score of 74% on his Syrian General Education Certificate of the Scientific Section – ideally with the original document – can directly apply for any degree programme, provided that they meet the language requirements. In case any further admission restrictions are relevant for a specific degree programme, e.g.: a Numerus Clausus(NC), the university will examine the documents after the application.

Important: Uni-assist as well as the “Zentralstelle für ausländische Bildungswesen”(abbreviated as “ZAB” – central department of international education systems) provide the service of a “Zeugnisbewertung” (diploma-assessment) for a certain fee. Through this the “value of the degree will officially be transposed into the German educational system – e.g.: a non-German university-diploma. This is not necessary in the process of applying for a degree programme! While an official translation of the diploma will suffice some universities prefer more sophisticated types of assessment.

How can I obtain admission, if I have already studied outside of Germany?

An alternative possibility to verify the university entrance qualification is available to almost everyone who has already studied outside of Germany. Two Conditions have to be fulfilled: First, two, sometimes three semesters have to be completed. Second, the respective university has to be acknowledged in Germany. This is usually the case with state universities. Anabin provides a database of international Universities: clicking on the tab “Institutionen” (institutions) and then again on “Suchen” will lead to the relevant matrix.  The significant marker here is the sign behind the “H”. A plus means that the university is acknowledged in Germany(H+); a minus indicates the opposite(H-). Often a minus as well as a plus will be visible (H+/-) This indicates that the university is only partially acknowledged – only specific programmes, degrees, etc.. In this case one can (early at best) turn to a German university and make inquiries about the respective home-university. The personnel of German universities has access to an internal Anabin-database and can provide more detailed information. Usually a phone call is sufficient to find out who is responsible for the acknowledgement of international applicants.

Of course, the courses completed outside of Germany can be acknowledged in Germany. A student who has already studied medicine in Syria and is now enrolled in a corresponding German programme will most likely not have to start from the beginning. Sadly, it is very rare that all courses can be credited, in many cases only one half or a third will be accepted. This decision is always made by the faculties of the German universities so the situation can vary greatly in between institutions.

How do I proceed with a conditioned acknowledgement?

If international school-finishing qualifications are only accepted conditionally, the preparatory college may become relevant: Preparatory college exist in every federal state and sadly they from state to state. Their task remains the same throughout – to build a bridge towards higher education. Preparatory colleges offer annual preparation courses, which will be finalized with an assessment test. The courses serve to practice the language and prepare the content of a certain degree programme or its general field of study.

Everyone who passes the assessment test will be able to enroll at a university. Please note: There are different preparation courses and assessment tests for different types of university or fields of Study. The distinction between general universities and universities of applied sciences is very important. An assessment test for a general university will grant you access to a university of applied sciences, but not vice versa; Neither will passing a test in engineering enable you to study medicine.

More information about specific preparatory colleges can be found here:


Furthermore, there are two special arrangements, which can sometimes come into effect: Provided the grades are good enough, an assessment test can be taken after only half a year of studies; Also, some preparatory colleges offer the assessment test without previous studies (as an “external” test) – this test still requires intensive studying, but it can serve as an alternative, if no place in a preparatory course is available.

Which facilities does the “Staatliches Studienkolleg Nordhausen” (preparatory college Nordhausen) offer?  

The closest preparatory college is the Staatliches Studienkolleg Nordhausen, located in Nordhausen, Thuringia. The courses offered enable you to visit both a university of applied sciences as well as any general university.

To register for a preparatory college can sometimes prove difficult, depending on the federal state. The following information is relevant for the Studienkolleg Nordhausen, so it is only relevant in Thuringia.

To graduate from a preparatory college an applicant has to apply for the desired degree programme at a university first. The university will then screen the application. If the applicant has, for example, a Syrian General Education Certificate with a score of 65% and speaks German on a B1 level, he will not be eligible for most degree programmes. He will receive only a “bedingte Zulassung”(conditioned admission), even if the programme usually is “zulassungsfrei”(open admission) . Addițional qualifications, such as a DSH-2 certificate and a completed assessment test may be required. These can now both be acquired at a preparatory college.

An application at a university and receiving a “bedingte Zulassung” is a prerequisite for participating in the entrance examination of the Studienkolleg Nordhausen – additionally, a level of B1 in German has to be verified. The Studienkolleg Nordhausen holds its entrance examinations twice a year, around the end of January and of August.  These tests contain, depending on the field of study, sections on German and sometimes mathematics. The website of the Studienkolleg Nordhausen provides more information on this topic as well as examinations of previous years.

Unfortunately, the number of places in the preparatory colleges has not been raised relevantly in the last years. This is why currently several hundred candidates apply for the 50 places at the Studienkolleg Nordhausen – it can therefore be very difficult to get a place. Most important are good German skills (at least B1) and a good general education. Preparing for this course is indeed worthwhile.

Students of a preparatory college are eligible for “Schüler-Bafög”(federal student aid). They will be provided with monetary aid as support. “Schüler-Bafög” is not a loan,  therefore it does not have to be repaid. It is also completely independent of the “Studierenden-Bafög”.

How can I obtain admission without any (original) documents?

Technically, an application requires the original documents certifying the school-leaving qualifications and, if necessary, any previous degree programmes. Many refugees, however, do not have the original documents, often times only photographs, copies or no documents at all.

In such a case  the university – depending on the information that is available – has to attempt to recreate the educational path of the applicant and verify this through testing procedures. The exact procedures vary throughout the federal state, sometimes they differ from university to university. Most important is that every university has to have such a procedure and thus has to enable refugees to apply even without their documents.

Very often an important part of this procedure is the “TestAS”. TestAS was originally created for self-assessment, so the applicant may decide for himself, whether he has enough background knowledge. It is no form of an access-test.

Nevertheless, some universities recognize the results of a TestAS. This may be the case if an applicant has no other way of verifying his university entrance qualification, because they are no longer in possession of their original documents. The TestAs is very demanding. It consists of a language test, a “core test” on logic and general education and it contains a part that depends on the specific degree programme one wants to apply for. The possible fields of study are 1. Humanities, culture and social sciences, 2. Engineering, 3. Mathematics, computer science and natural sciences and 4. Economics. The test can be taken in German, English and as of late in Arabic – any applicant should first inquire with the university whether they accept a test in English or Arabic!

There are only three dates on which a TestAS can be taken, usually in February, April and October. Testing facilities can be found in most larger cities, some places however do not offer a test in October. The facilities closest to Weimar are in Erfurt and Jena, both of which do not hold tests in October. TestAs is always free of charge for Refugees, no matter whether their asylum procedures are still ongoing or whether they are only on a tolerated stay. More information on the contents of the tests, the dates and other details can be found on this website. As a means of preparation for the TestAS a booklet is provided, that includes examples of possible questions. It is available in all three languages, German, English and Arabic.

Additional links:

University admission for refugees -current regulations throughout the federals states (Published by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, August 2015)

Overview of the Courses and tests held by the preparatory colleges

Overview of the preparatory colleges in Germany

Staatliches Studienkolleg Nordhausen