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Offerings for Refugees

The universities in Berlin and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin help refugees embark on a study program and take their first steps in their new home.

Many students are involved in providing aid to refugees, for example by volunteering to teach German.

Many students are involved in providing aid to refugees, for example by volunteering to teach German.
Image Credit: Annika Middeldorf

How do I apply for a study placement? What documents do I need in order to continue my studies? Where in Berlin can I study architecture, and what is an auditing program? Refugees who want to embark on a course of study in Germany have many questions. To make it easier for these people to get started with their studies, the three major universities in Berlin have developed a wide range of support options.

Through the Welcome to Freie Universität Berlin, Refugees Welcome at HU , and In(2)TUBerlin programs, they have been offering help since the fall of 2015 for refugees who wish to continue their academic education in Berlin or embark on a degree program. To help refugees get their bearings at the university, the institutions’ academic advising services are in particularly high demand. They are the first point of contact with the universities for many refugees who are interested in enrolling as students.

Learning German as an Important Success Factor

In all, more than 1,800 refugees have already sought advice from Berlin’s three universities regarding study opportunities, and about 700 are participating in the programs offered (as of August 2016). To jointly further develop the programs and learn from the experiences of others, those responsible for the programs engage in regular dialogue with each other. Offerings and programs for scholars, scientists, and researchers who have fled their countries or are at risk are also among the topics that the responsible parties discuss with each other.

Helping refugees who are interested in studying embark on a regular degree program is the goal of the Studienkolleg preparatory program at Technische Universität Berlin and the Studienkolleg program at Freie Universität, which also provides educational offerings for applicants to Humboldt-Universität. Learning German is an especially important success factor here. After all, German language proficiency means more to refugees than just an improved ability to find their way around in their new home. In many study programs, adequate German language skills are a prerequisite for those who wish to start a regular program. Alongside language skills, applicants are often also required to demonstrate particular knowledge or skills in their desired subject in order to enroll. The Studienkolleg preparatory programs also offer this kind of preparation in specific subjects for those whose higher education entrance qualifications do not demonstrate that they have the required knowledge.

A prospective student of pharmacy, for example, might take classes in natural sciences, while a future journalist would enroll in humanities classes. This subject-specific education and preparation for degree programs is also provided through the Studienkolleg program, which is attended for more than one year and culminates in an exam. The language and preparatory classes offered by the program are supported by the Berlin Senate and by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

Many Volunteers Are Involved in Helping Refugees

Many people at Berlin’s universities are involved in helping refugees: students, employees of the university administration, professors, and junior researchers are all involved in a wide range of projects for refugees.

As mentors, they help refugees settle in in their new home, show newcomers around campus, help them navigate the university bureaucracy (including sometimes acting as translators), and explain the rules of degree programs and how programs are structured.

At Freie Universität there are also free training courses for volunteer teachers of German. The Kultur Café at Technische Universität Berlin holds informational events and get-togethers every month where refugee students can meet each other. One student initiative launched three years ago is the Refugee Law Clinic Berlin at Humboldt-Universität. Alongside a lecture series that teaches students about asylum and residency law, the group offers free expert legal advice for refugees and immigrants in Berlin.

Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin offers medical help for refugees. In the Charité hilft (Charité helps) community outreach program, the university medical center has been honoring its obligations since September 2015 by providing medical care to refugees in various locations in Berlin and supporting activities at the state and district level. The goal is to improve medical care for refugees and ensure that they receive basic healthcare services.

Further Information

For detailed information on the universities’ refugee programs, please visit the following: