Important information for scholarship applicants

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Important information for scholarship applicants

DAAD/Norbert Hüttermann

Last update: February 2018

On this page, you can find information on application documents and deadlines, selection criteria, the required language skills, equivalency, scholarship benefits and other facts on DAAD scholarship programmes.

The scholarship database contains details on the programmes offered by the DAAD and by other scholarship awarding organisations for foreign students, academics and researchers interested in finding sources of funding to complete study or research stays in Germany.

Besides the programmes listed here, a number of more specialised funding programmes are also available for specific countries or regions that are not mentioned in the database. Information on these can be obtained from the DAAD regional offices, the German diplomatic missions abroad or from the relevant offices at universities abroad, for example, the International Office.

Objectives and target groups

The scholarships offered by the DAAD are awarded to younger university graduates (and, in exceptions, also to advanced students) from all academic disciplines as well as from the fields of music, fine arts and performing arts. Funding is also available for young and early-stage researchers, university teachers and groups of students completing study visits under the guidance of a university teacher. This support is largely financed by the German Federal Foreign Office from public funds made available to it.

The DAAD policy on awarding scholarships is as follows: the DAAD aims to fund and support foreign students, graduates, doctoral candidates and young and early-stage researchers whose previous research and academic achievements place them at least in the top third of their year group and who can additionally be expected in the future to become key players and top performers in their career fields combined with an awareness for the social responsibility which this involves.

Funding is available for stays at state (public) or state-approved universities and at non-university research institutes in Germany.

Age groups and timeframes

As a rule, the minimum age for applications is 18. At the time of application, generally no more than six years should have passed since the graduate gained the last degree; in the case of doctoral candidates, no more than three years should have passed since starting the doctoral process; and in the case of postdocs, no more than two years should have passed since gaining the doctorate. In the case of postdocs who are applying for a short stay (of up to six months), no more than four years should have passed since gaining the doctorate. Depending on the applicant’s country of origin (e.g. if special conditions prevail in the home country’s educational system), exceptions are possible. Further country-specific information is available on our scholarship database.

Application papers and deadlines

There are different application procedures for the various programmes. For information on which application process applies in each case, please read the respective call for applications on our scholarship database. Applications can only be processed when they have been submitted in full, including all required papers and documents. Incomplete applications (including missing papers or documents) cannot be processed by the DAAD and will result in the applicant’s exclusion from the selection process.

You can find information on the precise deadlines for the submission of applications and on the address to which applications must be submitted as well as additional country-specific information by going to the scholarship database. You can also obtain this information from the DAAD regional offices or from the German diplomatic missions in your home country.

Selection procedure and selection criteria

As a rule, a pre-selection round or an assessment of incoming applications is carried out by a pre-selection committee in your home country. The pre-selection committee may be made up of local university teachers (with special consideration given to former DAAD scholarship holders and former Alexander von Humboldt Foundation scholarship holders), German university teachers and assistant professors appointed by the DAAD, lecturers from the Goethe-Institut, representatives of the relevant ministries or partner organisations of the DAAD or the relevant DAAD regional office. The final decision is generally made by a selection committee of German university teachers with the involvement of staff members from the DAAD head office in Bonn. However, the latter have no voting rights.

The selection committee for the final decision is appointed by the DAAD Executive Committee on the basis of academic and regional factors. The selection committee members review the submitted applications and then judge the reasons given for the application on the basis of their knowledge of the general and academic circumstances in the applicant’s country of origin and in Germany. They assess the plausibility and feasibility of the project, the status of preparations for the stay in Germany, how the stay is integrated into the applicant’s schedule of studies or academic career, the applicant’s academic qualifications and language skills. If necessary, experts of the respective subject are asked to submit written statements.

The applicant’s academic qualifications and personal suitability are the decisive factors in all scholarship award decisions. The DAAD selection committees will, above all, base their decision on the proof of academic achievements, on letters of recommendation submitted by university teachers and on a description of the study or research project in question.

Specifically, the following selection criteria will be taken into consideration:

1. Previous academic achievements and examination results as well as the applicant’s particular knowledge in his/her academic field
2. Letter from a German university teacher confirming the provision of academic supervision for the applicant; proof of contacts between the applicant’s home and host institutes
3. Where appropriate, proof of German language skills
4. General questions of character and personality that are of significance to the success of a stay abroad
5. Where appropriate, the significance in terms of development policy of the proposed project for the home country
6. The extent to which the applicant will be able to apply the experience gained in Germany back in the home country (prospects for career re-integration, particularly relevant in the case of scholarship award decisions for applicants from developing countries)

Once the application has been reviewed, it will be rated on the basis of a points system. This is then used to produce a ranking list and finally to award the scholarships in accordance with the number of available places. Decisions are documented in writing at the DAAD head office. Applicants are advised of the results of the selection process. The diversity of assessment elements, their weighting in relation to each other and the assurance of absolute confidentiality of the decision-making process in the selection committee mean that applicants are not advised of the reasons for decisions.

German language skills

The level of German language skills required of applicants is primarily dependent on the planned study or research project. Foreign students wishing to matriculate at a German university must, as a rule, present proof of adequate proficiency in the German language.

Students can prove their German language skills by presenting one of the following language proficiency certificates: the German Language Test for Admission to Higher Education (DSH) or the German as a Foreign Language test (TestDaF). However, students who gained the “Abitur” (German school leaving certificate giving the right of entry to higher education) at a German school abroad or who hold one of the following language certificates – “Sprachdiplom der KMK (Stufe 2)”, or “Feststellungsprüfung” (assessment test to determine the eligibility of foreign applicants to studies at institutions of higher education in the Federal Republic of Germany) in the subject German by a “Studienkolleg” (preparatory course), or “Goethe-Zertifikat C2”, or “telc Deutsch C1 Hochschule” – will also be exempted from this requirement.

Required language course levels
The DSH and TestDaF (TDN) certificates are each made up of three stages or levels: DSH-1, DSH-2, DSH-3 and TDN 3, TDN 4, TDN 5. An adequate knowledge of German is considered to have been proven when applicants pass the DSH with at least a grade point average score of DSH-2 or when applicants achieve at least TDN 4 level language skills in all TestDaF examination sections. In the case of lower scores (i.e. DSH-1 or TDN 3), the university in question is responsible for deciding on admission.

You can find information on the TestDaF on the DAAD website or directly from http://www.testdaf.de/. You can sit the TestDaF at numerous test centres in Germany and abroad. For the addresses of the test centres, just go to the above website.

The DSH can be taken at universities in Germany and at some foreign universities. You can find further information on the DSH here on the DAAD website or on the website of the Fachverband Deutsch als Fremdsprache (FaDaF) [Professional Association of German as a Foreign Language].

Many universities offer free-of-charge language courses to prepare students for the DSH or TestDaF. However, the number of universities that charge fees for these courses is increasing. This means that the number of free-of-charge places on such courses is very limited. Courses offered by (private) language schools outside the university sector will certainly charge fees.

Use your time to learn
Although the DAAD does place a greater emphasis on the academic qualifications that applicants hold than on their German language skills, applicants will nevertheless be expected to take every opportunity to gain and improve their knowledge of German while they are still in their home country. When it awards a scholarship, the DAAD reserves the right to make it a condition that the applicant provides proof of adequate language skills in the form of a language proficiency certificate before leaving for Germany. In any case, we strongly advise all applicants who are nominated for a scholarship to make use of every opportunity open to them to improve their knowledge of the German language in the time between submitting their application and leaving for Germany.

Scholarship benefits

The DAAD essentially differentiates between individual scholarships and group programmes. Besides a monthly payment, which the DAAD determines on the basis of the scholarship holder’s academic level, individual scholarships generally include other payments as well, such as travel expenses, health insurance, accident insurance and personal/private liability insurance. Details can be found in the individual programme descriptions.


Even very well qualified foreign applicants may find integration into the German academic system difficult to manage due to the differences in the structures of the various university and general education and training systems. Only the host faculty at the German university of your choice is responsible for deciding on the placement and assessment of any academic qualifications that you gained in your home country and, in particular, of any final degrees you hold. For their part, the faculties base their decision on recommendations issued by the Zentralstelle für das ausländische Bildungswesen (ZAB) [Central Office for Foreign Education], which is a unit of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs in the Federal Republic of Germany (KMK).

Please take particular note

Applicants who have been resident in Germany for longer than 15 months at the time of application cannot be considered.

You must not draw funding from other German scholarship-awarding organisations or from other German public authorities at the same time as you are receiving your DAAD scholarship. Any other foreign support or additional income from secondary employment will be partly offset against (i.e. deducted) from your scholarship. Scholarship holders must not take up any additional work until they have gained appropriate written approval from the DAAD.

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