Make your earlier education qualification equivalent to the German entrance qualification

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How to make your previous education qualification equivalent to the German entrance qualification required for a doctoral program.

If you’re planning to pursue doctoral studies from Germany, this article will be a perfect read for you. Getting admission to a doctoral course in Germany as an international student is not at all easy and comes with a long list of requirements. One such requirement is proving the equivalence of your previous education qualification in your home country to the German entrance qualification. Want to know more? Keep reading.

German entrance qualifications for a doctoral program

In Germany, the most widely accepted and preferred qualification for a doctoral program is a master’s degree. Other qualifications that are accepted include the State examination and the Diplom. As an exception, in some cases, a three-year bachelor’s degree is also accepted as a suitable qualification for entering the doctoral program. However, in such cases, a knowledge examination is conducted.

Your likelihood to enter a doctoral program in Germany

Based on the information you’ve gathered till now, you’ve seen that your chances of pursuing doctoral studies from Germany depend on the earlier educational qualification. Only if your previous education qualification and your higher education institution in your home country is recognized by the German state, or your previous higher qualification is equivalent to the German entrance qualification, you’ll be allowed to pursue doctoral studies from Germany.

The German universities hold the final call regarding the accreditation of your previous qualification and your acceptance for the doctoral program.

In the next few sections, we will clarify your doubts regarding the equivalence of your earlier qualification with the German entrance qualification. Read on to know more.

The Abitur

Every individual in Germany is required to sit for the Abitur examination after completing 12 to 13 years of formal education in Germany. On clearing the Abitur, you’ll get the Hochschulzugangsberechtigung (HZB) or the Higher Education Entrance Qualification. As an HZB holder, you can apply to different higher education programs including the doctoral programs.

As an international student, can I become an HZB holder?

Since you’re reading this article, we’re taking the liberty to assume that you belong to either of these two categories– you have finished your earlier education in a German university abroad or in a country other than Germany. However, the difference between the two categories is massive. If you belong to the first category, you’ll be treated as a German citizen with an Abitur. And, if you belong to the second category, you will have to undergo a procedure in which your foreign qualification will be recognized to help you enter German higher studies.

How can I be sure that my earlier education is recognized as equivalent to the German entrance qualification to enter the doctoral program?

As already mentioned above, you must hold a master’s degree with at least eight semesters completed. You must also possess the Abitur to make your home country’s qualification equivalent to the German school leaving qualification.

It’s not easy to make your master’s degree equivalent to the German entrance qualification. The first and foremost thing you need to do is check the online database “Anabin.” This database will give you an insight into the recognition of your foreign qualification in different countries. Using this database, you’ll also get answers to some important questions such as “Is my foreign university recognized in Germany?”, “What are the requirements to enter a doctoral program in Germany?” etc. Alternatively, you can also check DAAD’s online database.

Though these databases might give you an idea about the equivalence of your earlier education qualification to the German entrance qualification, the best way to get concrete information is to contact the preferred university directly. As a prospective doctoral program applicant, you can share the certificates of your earlier educational qualification such as credits, diploma, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree with your preferred university by post or through email. The university’s office will then inform you after thoroughly checking if your qualification is recognized or if you need to clear a specific examination to make your qualification equivalent to the German entrance qualification for doctoral studies. Make sure the documents you provide are translated into English, German, or Fresh, and are certified by a professional translator.

What can I do if my qualifications are not recognized?

If your earlier qualifications are not recognized, you’ll have to appear for the German Foundation Course or “Studienkolleg.” This foundation course will prepare you to pass the German entrance qualification exam (Feststellungsprüfung) to qualify as an eligible candidate for doctoral studies in Germany.

The Studienkolleg course is a preparatory course that provides you with the required knowledge to clear the qualification assessment exam. There are different versions of the Studienkolleg depending upon the study field you wish to pursue. So, make sure you find a suitable course that aligns with the study field of your choice such as economics, law, mathematics, etc. All courses last for one calendar year or two semesters.

Here’s another thing you must not miss. To enrol in the Studienkolleg, you must have a German language proficiency of level B1. Once you complete a year into the course, you’ll be eligible for writing the qualification assessment exam.


The most important thing you must do as soon as you decide to pursue doctoral studies from Germany is checked if your previous education qualifications are enough to enrol in the study program. If you happen to find out that your earlier education qualifications are not equivalent to the German entrance qualification, don’t lose heart. You can get your qualifications recognized. We’ve discussed the solution in detail in the article above. If you have any more questions you can let us know. We’ll be glad to assist you.

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