Ph.D. in Germany

2022 PhD Admission Requirements of all German Universities for international Students

Making Earlier Education Equivalent With German University Entrance Qualification to Enroll for Doctoral Studies - Entrance Qualification required for Germany and German Higher Institutions


In order to pursue a doctoral degree in Germany, you have to possess the entrance qualification needed for university admission. There is no exception in this regard for any person either a resident of Germany or an international doctoral candidate.

However, for doctoral admission at a German university, you need to possess a Master’s degree. Moreover, apart from the master’s degree, state examinations and diplomas are also accepted for admission in doctoral studies. Anyhow, in some exceptional cases students having a bachelor’s degree of 3 years can also apply for a doctoral program. But applicants have to undergo an examination to prove their aptitude.

If you are an international student, then you must hold the entrance qualification that is recognized in German and German higher institutions. Your previous education must be equivalent to the education given in German universities. This is, however, the most important thing to consider while applying for the doctoral program. Additionally, it is also necessary that the university accepts your previous qualification and validate it so that you can be enrolled in the doctoral program.


In this article, we will provide you with all the information about your previous qualifications, if it is in accordance with German education or not. And what you have to do if your education is not recognized in Germany.

Arbiter Examination for German Institutions

It is the type of examination that every individual has to give while being in Germany. This type of examination is given after the completion of 12 or 13 years of education. Once the Arbiter is given you will be recognized as a person having the higher education entrance Qualification or “Hochschulzugangsberechtigung” (HZB) known in the German language. However, if you possess the HZB then you can apply for further studies at the German university including the Ph.D. degree.


How to Become a Holder of an HZB in Germany?

To apply for a doctoral program in Germany you need to possess the HZB which is a German higher education entrance qualification. However, it is clear that if you are checking that you possess HZB then you are an international student. Firstly, if you are a foreign student and have completed your previous education abroad from a German institution then you don’t need to worry. This is because you will be considered the same as the residents of Germany who have successfully completed and passed the Arbiter.

Secondly, if you fall into the category of the international students who have completed their previous education abroad from the non-German institution then they have to recognize their education. They have to follow a certain procedure so that they can continue their further education at the German university. Recognizing their degree helps them to know whether they have to give the additional examination to show their aptitude to the university or they are just fine and can continue with their studies.


Previous Education is Acceptable in Germany or not?

As mentioned before you need to have a master’s degree in order to apply for the doctorate program. And you must have completed the 8 semesters of the master’s program. Anyhow there are always some exceptions in some cases. Additionally, you also need to have an HZB so that you can make your previous foreign qualification equal to that of German qualification.

Being an international student coming from a country that has no connection with the Lisbon Recognition Convention then you have to undergo some qualification procedures. You have to know the country-specific guidelines so you may know the procedure depending upon the country from where you have done your previous education.

However, because of the Anabin which is a database, the procedure has become very easy and stress-free. This database provides all the information about the country-specific guideline to check if your previous qualification is equivalent to German qualification or not. Moreover, there are also specific guidelines for the purpose if your qualification is not equal to the set standard. Additionally, you can also check the information from the DAAD database.


However, the online databases sometimes do not provide you with all the information you need in order to check whether your previous education is recognized in Germany or not. For this purpose, you can send your documents such as transcript, credits, diploma, and some other certificates to the universities.

University will check your documents and will notify you about the recognition of your documents. On the other hand, if your previous education is not recognized by the university then the institution will inform you and will ask you to give an examination to prove your aptitude. Moreover, make sure that documents you send to the university are translated into English, German, or French language and they must be certified.


What to do when Previous Degrees will not be Considered Standard for Entrance Examination of German Institutes?

In the condition in which you are told that your previous qualification is not sufficient for you to apply for doctoral studies then you have to undergo a course known as “Studienkolleg”. This course prepares the international student for the examination named “Feststellungsprüfung”. Passing this exam makes the candidate eligible for applying to the German university.

The purpose of the preparatory course is to provide international students with all the information and knowledge about the examination. However, in Germany, there are different preparatory courses for different subjects depending upon the study field you are interested in. So, in this regard, you should always find that preparatory course that is related to your field of study such as law, biology, mathematics, economics, etc.

Moreover, the preparatory course is scheduled for two semesters which makes one calendar year. Most of the time the universities offer this course free of cost but you have to pay the semester fees for the 2 semesters. On the other hand, you must know that in order to get enrolled in the preparatory course you must have a B1 level proficiency in the German language. At last, after one year you would be ready to give the examination.


However, it does not mean that after passing the exam you can enter the course directly. This is because the university has to check if your qualification is equal to a master’s degree or not. The decision for your entrance into the doctoral studies is solely dependent upon the university as if it wants to give you the admission or not.

Moreover, the documents you provide to the university are examined by the Dekanat which is a Dean’s office, or by the Promotion sausschuss which is an Examiners Board. These offices have the authority to accept or reject your documents. After the successful comparison and checking of the documents, the university makes a decision about admission in doctoral studies.

Dr. Philip Morgan

(Associate Editor) Dr. Philip Morgan is a postdoctoral fellow and lead author at He earned his Master's and Ph.D. from Stanford before pursuing research in the U.S. on a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship. Leveraging his diverse academic background, Dr. Morgan creates informative articles on scholarships, internships, and fellowships for international students. His expertise and passion empower students to achieve their academic goals through international education opportunities.

One Comment

  1. Hi
    I Have a dream to study and get a PHD in film studies at Germany universities. I’m looking for the right school that can accept me.
    Please, let me know about university which does not ask for a lot difficult and complex requirements, an easy PHD school and accessible.

    Best Regards
    Rafat Abuzaid

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