abi>> Ms Kourukmas, who do I contact if I want to have my certificate recognised?
Petra Kourukmas: There are various offices in Germany that are responsible for recognising an occupational or academic qualification. Universities decide on admissions themselves. If you don't know which office you should contact, you can mail us – in English or Arabic, as well – and attach a scan of the certificate. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
abi>> How do you decide what my qualification is worth?
Petra Kourukmas: We don't decide, we advise the competent offices, and we orient ourselves towards the education system in the country where the certificates were issued. For example, if you acquired a scientific secondary school leaving qualification in Syria, you can study all subjects there. In addition, to study medicine and other very popular subjects you have to show above average grades. It's the same here as well. In contrast, if you have a secondary school leaving qualification in the arts, you can study subjects in the areas of social science, humanities or the law, just as in Syria.
abi>> Can I enrol at a university as soon as I know that?
Petra Kourukmas: First of all you have to decide on the university where you want to study. The university's homepages will show you whether you can apply directly or via Uni Assist, the central work and service agency for international applicants for a place at university in Germany, and whether you will have to have your certificates translated for this.
abi>> Where can I find a suitable translator, and what can I do if I can't afford one?
Petra Kourukmas: The advisory agency or the university itself can give you the names of translators, and perhaps tell you where you can obtain support for the costs of translations.
abi>> A university entrance qualification by itself is no use if I can't speak German...
Petra Kourukmas: That's why you have to learn the language, and it's best to start with this in the refugee hostel. The Federal Employment Agency or the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) can find language courses. Many universities offer their own intensive German courses. You need knowledge of German to be admitted to a preparatory college (“Studienkolleg”).
abi>> What is a preparatory college?
Petra Kourukmas: A preparatory college prepares foreign applicants for a place at university for studying, if their school education in the home country is insufficient for this. They teach subjects such as maths or biology – depending on what you want to study. You will learn German as well. The advantage is that the German lessons are related directly to your studies. After completing preparatory college you sit an examination that entitles you to start studying.
abi>> If I find out that my certificate does not qualify me for a German university – what do I do then?
Petra Kourukmas: You can acquire higher education entrance qualifications in the second-chance education system, for example at night school (“Abendgymnasium”) or a college (“Kolleg”) for example. This is also possible at some vocational schools. Or think about vocational training that you would like. Ask for advice, just as Germans do if they don’t know exactly which occupation they would like to take up.
abi>> What about language skills here?
Petra Kourukmas: This differs greatly as well. In the IT branch, for example, you can get quite far with English as well, but in vocational school you need German. Many vocational schools offer additional language courses for non-Germans.
abi>> What happens if I couldn't take my certificate with me or lost it during my flight?
Petra Kourukmas: In this case, the university has to check your qualifications in a different way. There are three stages for this: first of all, you need a residence permit, second, your previous education path has to be credible, and third, you may have to prove what you can already do or know. For example, someone who claims to have studied construction engineering should be able to draw a construction plan. However, the decision is in the hands of the universities.
You can research in the Anabin database how educational qualifications acquired abroad are evaluated in Germany. Start the search with "Schulabschlüsse mit Hochschulzugang” (“School-leaving qualifications entitling to university entrance”). You can select your home country from the list. Published by the Conference of Education Ministers.