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Refugees and Higher Education

Refugees to be admitted to Saxon Colleges and Universities as soon as possible

Dr Eva-Maria Stange, the Saxon Minister of Higher Education, has stated: “Faculty, staff and students have shown a great willingness to help the arriving refugees and asylum applicants. Hundreds of students have volunteered to supervise refugees. Instructors have started the first language courses at TU Chemnitz and other institutions. Researchers at the University of Leipzig have launched an Internet platform to facilitate contacts between researchers among the refugees, their German colleagues and German research institutes. Another task is to support qualified young people arriving as refugees and integrate them as quickly as possible in our colleges and universities.”
At the moment it is not possible to estimate how many refugees will begin a course of study or continue an academic career they began in their home countries, the minister said. “We have no information at the moment about what schooling, vocational qualifications or academic education the refugees are bringing with them when they come to Germany. But we want to pave the way to higher education for everyone who has the necessary prerequisites.”
Questions and Answers on Refugees and Higher Education
1. Can refugees study in Saxony before their asylum applications have been decided?
There are no immigration regulations that prohibit asylum applicants or persons remaining in Germany on temporary leave from beginning a course of study. Persons with a residence permit for the purpose of an asylum application (Aufenthaltsgestattung) or with temporary leave to remain in Germany (Duldung) may undertake a course of study unless individually prohibited by an ancillary provision in their immigration status. However, refugees who may wish to study do not find counselling or supervision in the initial receiving facilities where they stay for up to three months after arriving in Germany. Once they have been distributed to the administrative districts where they are to reside, they can take advantage of the counselling services available there. Arriving refugees may contact the counselling offices at the colleges and universities at any time, however.

2. What are the prerequisites for admission to a course of study?
The criteria for admission to higher education, registration at a college or university, transferring credit for academic work completed elsewhere, assessment tests, and standardized qualifications are the same for all applicants. Non-German applicants must demonstrate the language skills necessary for a course of study. The colleges and universities may exercise discretion in admitting applicants from non-EU countries in accordance with the Saxon state law on the autonomy of higher education institutions (SächsHSFG), §17, paragraph 1, sentence 4.
Refugees and asylum applicants can be admitted to colleges or universities if they can document their qualification for admission to higher education and the necessary language skills. If they are unable to present or obtain certificates of such qualifications due to the circumstances of their flight, the colleges and universities will ease the documentation requirements in accordance with the resolution of the Conference of Ministers of Culture of 1985. In such cases, applicants must present at least one document that indirectly demonstrates a qualification for admission to higher education. Colleges and universities may require additional examinations of the applicants’ knowledge and language skills to test the plausibility of such documents.
Any course of study or qualification governed by state law may be applied for under these conditions.

3. What if a refugee wants to begin a course of study but cannot document any qualifications?
If – due to the individual circumstances of the flight – certificates are incomplete or cannot be retrieved, universities are authorized to also accept indirect proof of an educational biography. Gaps within the CV can be bridged by using the existing papers and documents. In case no certificates can be provided, universities will evaluate the plausibility of an educational background with the help of appropriate tests and exams. The Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany (Kultusministerkonferenz) has adapted the relevant provision of 1985 in compliance with the changed circumstances. Saxon universities apply this provision accordingly.

4. How many refugees whose asylum applications are pending are admitted to higher education in Saxony?
The number of refugees requesting admission to higher education to date is low. This may of course change in time with rising numbers of refugees. If the numbers of applicants increase, the colleges and universities will have time to prepare since almost all refugees need one to two years to acquire the necessary language skills for a course of study.

5. Can refugees audit courses at Saxon colleges and universities?
Yes, refugees with the necessary language skills can be admitted as auditors in suitable courses at colleges and universities. Final consultations with the colleges and universities on auditing fees are in progress. The University of Leipzig for example plans to waive auditing fees for refugees beginning in the winter term.

6. What other individual measures have been undertaken or planned?
The Saxon colleges and universities have a wide range of counselling programmes aimed at the special needs of foreign students. Some institutions are offering support directly in the receiving centres. The colleges and universities have a strong tradition of welcoming foreign students. Faculty and students are organising German courses in the refugees’ emergency accommodations on their own initiative.
Because sufficient language skills are a prerequisite for beginning a course of study at a college or university in Saxony, the Saxon Ministry of Higher Education and the Arts will be consulting with the preparatory programmes on expanding the available language courses.

7. Can refugees receive financial aid as students?
Access to federal financial aid (BAFöG) is to be accelerated for refugees: in future, persons with leave to remain in Germany (Duldung) or a residence permit on humanitarian grounds will be allowed to apply for federal student aid after 15 months instead of four years. The reduction of this delay was originally planned for the revised financial aid law that will take effect August 1, 2016. It will now take effect January 1 so that refugees can receive student aid sooner. The new regulation is part of a bill adopted by the federal cabinet on August 12, 2015, revising Book 12 of the social security code and other regulations.

*Excerpt from the Asylum Procedure Law (AsylVfG)
§55 Granting Leave to Remain
(1) A foreigner requesting asylum shall be granted leave to remain in the federal territory. Such a person shall have no claim to remain in a specific state or a specific locality. In the case of unauthorized entry from a safe third country (§26a), the foreigner shall acquire leave to remain upon applying for asylum.
(2) Applying for asylum terminates an exemption from the residence permit requirement, a residence permit with a duration of up to six months, and the effects of an application for a residence permit stipulated in §81 paragraphs 3 and 4 of the Residence Act (AufenthG). §81 paragraph 4 of the Residence Act is not affected if the foreigner possessed and applied for the renewal of a residence permit with a duration of more than six months.
(3) For the purposes of acquiring or exercising a right or privilege which depends on the duration of residence in the federal territory, the period of residence under Paragraph 1 shall be counted only if the foreigner has been recognized as entitled to asylum or accorded international protection as defined in §1 paragraph 1 no. 2.

This information will be made available in other languages in the near future.


© Sächsisches Staatsministerium für Wissenschaft und Kunst