Funding for Refugees

Refugees Funding for Refugees

The Studierendenwerk Hamburg is the first stop for all refugees interested in studying in Hamburg with questions related to financing.

Funding for Refugees

Studierendenwerk Hamburg is responsible for all students interested in studying in Hamburg; services include advising students about financing their studies. Refugees in particular may be preoccupied with how to pay for their studies, but there are many options available: from federal funding, to grants and loans — there are many ways to pay for studies.

Luckily in Hamburg, there are no longer any tuition fees at public universities: only a small semester contribution must be made — making studying here affordable.


The biggest option for refugees to finance their studies is the state funding system, known by its acronym ─ BAföG. There are many requirements in order to get this funding, such as age, but as a general rule, refugees and stateless and displaced persons are eligible to receive BAföG.

BaföG is definitely 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); HafenCity Universität (HCU).

Only half of the BAföG awarded must be paid back ─ the other half is a grant, which doesn't have to be repaid, and students must only pay back up to 10,000€. Repayments won't begin until the student has graduated and has a job, and the amount to be repaid each month will depend on income.  


Scholarships are a less common method of funding studies, but still possible. The DAAD has a comprehensive database of scholarships which can be filtered, so that it fits the level of education, nationality and circumstances. There is no one central body which awards scholarships ─ the best way to find them is to go to your university directly and discover what is available (and 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 and banks. Although a loan will cover any gaps in funding, it is the most expensive method of financing studies and is not very common ─ students should thoroughly check requirements and conditions before they sign 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 depend on your 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), who wish to acquire higher education entrance qualifications or wish to study at a university in Germany.

Immigrants are eligible to take up and finish counselling and courses in order to resume education started in the given country of origin. Counselling interviews are scheduled prior to granting funds via the Otto Benecke Foundation.