Every child in Germany has the right and the obligation to go to school. This applies to the children of refugees and to children without papers, as well. There is no charge for going to school. 

Many careers require additional education. You can get this at a college or university after you graduate from high school. Alternatively, you can learn a job through an apprenticeship (Ausbildung).


In Hamburg, children over the age of 6 go to a Grundschule (primary school). After 4 years, pupils change to a secondary school (weiterführende Schule): a Gymnasium or a Stadtteilschule. In a Stadtteilschule, students take the “Abitur” (A levels: entrance qualification for higher education) after 9 years. At a Gymnasium, students take this exam after 8 years. In both secondary schools (weiterführende Schulen), pupils can obtain the “ersten allgemeinbildenden Schulabschluss” (general education school leaving certificate) after the 9th grade, and the “mittleren Schulabschluss” (intermediate school leaving certificate, qualification for an apprenticeship) after the 10th grade.

At the schools, children who cannot speak German yet generally attend international classes („Internationale Vorbereitungsklassen“ or „Basisklassen“) first. Here they receive specialised teaching and take German lessons. You can find more information in German and English here: https://welcome.hamburg.de/schule/7041194/sprachkenntnisse/, https://www.hamburg.com/welcome/living/school/11864938/language-skills/

In order for your child to be put into the right class, please seek advice first:

You can find a manual on the school system in Hamburg here (German and English): https://www.hamburg.com/contentblob/11701412/cc3437464ee3026c60bd33d18dfa2bd7/data/understanding-school-in-hamburg.pdf

Further information on schools in Hamburg:



You can find a podcast with the latest information on schools for parents in Hamburg here (German, English, Arabic, Farsi, Kurmanji): www.li.hamburg.de/skm/podcasts

You can get help with school registration and further advice here:

If your children need a computer, laptop or accessories, you can receive support for this. You can find further information here: /portal/de/finanzielle-unterstuetzung/

Recognition of your school certificates

In order to go to a Stadtteilschule or a Gymnasium, you must have your school certificates recognised. In order to attend a higher education institution, you need to have your school leaving certificate recognised.

  • Schulinformationszentrum (SIZ) (school information centre): Hamburger Straße 125a, schulinformationszentrum@bsb.hamburg.de, +49 40 428 99 22 11 (Tuesday 2 pm – 4 pm, Wednesday and Thursday 10 am – 12 pm (noon)), www.hamburg.de/bsb/siz
  • Diakonisches Werk Hamburg: Zentrale Anlaufstelle Anerkennung (ZAA)
  • If you are looking to begin your studies, it is best to contact your preferred higher education institution directly.

Certain careers in Germany require higher education – becoming a teacher or lawyer, for example. The prerequisite for higher education is usually the highest school leaving certificate possible in a country (in Germany, for example, the Abitur). You can usually apply to higher education programmes in January and July. Another prerequisite for studies is a language level of C1 in German.

An overview of the application process:

  1. Application to a university
    • Studying in Hamburg There are 19 universities in Hamburg (goo.gl/e3ZCHp). The three largest are the Universität Hamburg(University of Hamburg) (UHH, goo.gl/hBrC9), the Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften Hamburg(Hamburg University of Applied Sciences)  (HAW, goo.gl/Tpn5E) and theTechnische Universität Hamburg (Hamburg University of Technology) (TU Hamburg, goo.gl/S2lkVb)
  • For an initial overview of the application process, see “Uni assist” (goo.gl/gAOySL) und “Studieren in Deutschland” (Goo.gl/sfoynU).
  • Further information on the study programmes is available here: “Hochschulkompass” (Goo.gl/KDeDRE)
  1. Recognition of university entrance qualifications
    • Your certificates from home may entitle you to study in Germany. Recognition is required for this (ZAA Hamburg, goo.gl/nQObLM).
    • If your certificates do not entitle you to study in Germany, for example, you can take foundation courses (Studienkolleg) that enable you to obtain a higher education entrance qualification through lessons and an assessment test (goo.gl/u5Uayi).
  1. Proof of German language skills Universities in Germany require a German language level of C1.
  • A test can determine if your language level is sufficient to study in German (for example, the TesDaF, TELC). (https://refugees.onset.de)
  • You can apply for financial support for preparatory language courses.
  1. If you meet the above-mentioned conditions, you have the right to study at a German university.
Help and support for applying to a university in Hamburg:
  • Education advisory service CJD

Comprehensive consultation and support for people interested in studying, for example through German courses, helping to attain the university entrance qualification or financial support.



+49 40 211 118 19

Tuesday, Thursday: 1 pm – 4 pm



Vocational training is an alternative to studying at a university. In this case you learn a profession or trade. An Abitur is not required. In two to three years, you will learn a trade such as a baker, a nurse or a salesperson through a combination of school and work. The required language level depends on the individual training centre. http://www.hamburg.de/yourchance/

Additional information is also available in the “Work” flyer.


If you have already started or completed your studies in your home country, further education can give you additional job search qualifications.

Overview of further education options for various career groups:


  • IQ-Netzwerk NOBI: Telephone consultation/hotline: +49 40 35905509. goo.gl/PKSNPj Monday to Friday: 9 am – 12 pm, 1 pm – 4 pm
  • Volkshochschule Hamburg: Evening classes: goo.gl/vLGks0


You must apply to be able to receive a bursary. It allows you to (partly) finance your studies or further education.

DAFI Stipendium des UNHCR (UNHCR DAFI Scholarship)

Full or part financing of studies. You need recognised refugee status. +49 (0) 228 – 629 86 19, www.unhcr.org/protection/operations/40dbee984/albert-einstein-german-academic-refugee-initiative-fund-dafi-frequently.html and www.unhcr.org/pages/49e4a2dd6.html, maas@uno-fluechtlingshilfe.de

Studierendenwerk Hamburg (Hamburg Student Union)
Advice on student financing for refugees.

Last Updated: 20.09.2018

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