Studierendenwerk Hamburg is responsible for all students interested in studying in Hamburg, and the services they offer include advising students about financing their studies. Refugees in particular may be preoccupied with questions of funding, but there are many options available. From federal funding to grants and loans, there are many ways to pay for studies.
Luckily, there are no longer any tuition fees at public universities in Hamburg ― only a small semester contribution to help cover, for example, the cost of the public transportation card given to all students. This helps make studying here affordable.
The first option for refugees to finance their studies is the state funding system, known by its acronym ― BAföG. Many requirements must be fulfilled in order to receive this funding, but as a general rule, refugees and stateless and displaced persons are eligible to receive BAföG.
BaföG is available to students studying at the following universities: Universität Hamburg, Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften (HAW), Technische Universität Hamburg Harburg (TUHH), Hochschule für bildende Künste (HfBK), Hochschule für Musik und Theater (HfMT), and HafenCity Universität (HCU).
Only half of the BAföG awarded must be paid back ― the other half is a grant, and doesn't have to be repaid. Students need only pay back up to EUR 10,000, and repayments won't begin until the student has graduated and has a job. Monthly payments will be income-dependent.
Scholarships are a less common method of funding studies, but still possible. The DAAD has a comprehensive database of scholarships, which can be filtered to fit education level, nationality and circumstances. There is no one central body which awards scholarships, so the best way to find them is for a student to go to their university directly and discover what is available that fits all the relevant criteria. Scholarships are a useful source of extra income, but they won’t cover all expenses and often have very specific criteria, so other funding will be important.
Another financing option is loans, which can be offered by the state or by private institutions like banks. Although a loan will cover any gaps in funding, it is the most expensive method of financing studies and is not very common in Germany, so students should thoroughly check requirements and conditions before signing up for any loans.
Some loans will only cover tuition fees, but others will also pay out for living expenses. Repayments don't start until the student has graduated and has a job, and will depend on income.
For the best advice on studying and funding, visit the Studierendenwerk at Grindelallee 9.
Other Funding Programmes
The Otto Benecke Foundation's Garantiefonds Hochschule funding programme is directed at young refugees, Jewish immigrants, and repatriates (and their relatives) wishing to acquire higher education entrance qualifications or wish to study at a university in Germany.
Immigrants are eligible for counselling and to take up and finish courses in order to resume education started in their country of origin. Counselling interviews are scheduled prior to the granting of funds via the Otto Benecke Foundation.