A new survey of refugees aspiring to higher education in Germany found that 73 percent have already secured a place at a German university, a far higher proportion than many observers might anticipate.
A majority of Syrian, Iraqi, and Palestinian refugees in Germany have graduated from high school in their countries of origin, and many are accessing higher education via programs that waive university fees, the survey found. The poll was commissioned by “Uni-Assist,” an organization supported by more than 180 German universities that helps international students apply for higher education. The survey showed that refugees not only arrived in Europe’s most populous country with significant academic credentials, but are also eager to continue studying in their new country.
“A lot more refugees have already gained access to German higher education than (initially thought),” said Nora Sevbihiv Sinemillioglu, a project director with Uni-Assist, in a statement. A large majority of the poll’s respondents said they were content with their studies, she said, but more than 60 percent also indicated that they were struggling with studying in a foreign language. “Also finances are a challenge for more than 55 percent, as well as housing for almost one quarter.”
Abdalla Fahed, an engineering student from Syria living in Germany, knows that struggle well. He said he has difficulties with the German language and with supporting his studies.
“At first, it was very hard financing my education in Germany,” he explained. “I had three issues: I needed to prove that I had around 8,000 euros in the bank. And if you’re new here and can’t speak German and have a student visa, the visa office decides whether you are allowed to work. I wasn’t allowed to work until my German had improved. So added all up, I spent more than 10,000 euros on living expenses and German courses.”
“It was hard for me and a lot of people have problems making this work for them. But even when I was allowed to begin my studies, and allowed to work, I wasn’t able to find time to work. In the second semester I worked, but was only 10 to 15 hours a week and there was a cap on what I was allowed to earn. In the end, I asked my brother for a loan.”
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Financial Assistance Helps Many
For 68 percent of students, the cost of study is “an important to very important” consideration when deciding whether to pursue higher education, according to the survey. Still, 74 percent said they were “satisfied or very satisfied” with the cost assistance they had received. Moreover, 78 percent of those surveyed said “they could only have applied to university or trade school of their choice due to cost exemption or financial assistance.”
Ninety-four percent of survey participants said they had graduated from high school, while 72 percent said they had completed some advanced course work and 46 percent said they had attained an academic degree or qualification. The survey was conducted online and had 6,340 respondents. It was heavily weighted toward Syrian refugees, who made up 81 percent of those who responded.