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Changing or transferring to another university, or discontinuing your studies
You may find that your chosen course of studies differs from your expectations. Should you find yourself constantly struggling or dissatisfied with the course, we encourage you to seek guidance as soon as possible, as changing your course is usually only possible for international students if it is done within the first 3 semesters of your chosen subject. Any change in course has to be registered with the immigration office, and after the 3rd semester it is only permitted when sufficient reason is provided and transfer of credits is possible.
If you decide that the course you’re enrolled in is not right for you then it’s all about finding better options. This is common amongst German students, too – about a third of all students across Germany discontinue their course of studies. It is important to come to terms with the situation and seek solutions instead of forcing yourself to continue a course of studies that you dislike, or in which you struggle to achieve passing grades. Admitting to yourself that your chosen course just isn’t for you shows a measure of maturity and responsibility concerning life decisions – character traits that are also important concerning your CV.
Your first port of call for such problems would be the subject-specific guidance services of your particular faculty or institute. They will attempt to support you in restructuring your studies to better suit your interests, so as to avoid having to change courses entirely. If this does not improve your situation then you should consult the central course guidance services and the International Office about transferring or changing your course.
What should I do?
Investigate other subjects you might be interested in
If you already have an idea of an alternative subject you might find interesting then you should, for example, attend lectures for that subject and talk to the people currently studying it to get a better idea of the course. You might even do a short internship in the subject field to familiarise yourself with the professional lines of work you could pursue in that field. If you wish to change your course, you should make certain that you will be more satisfied and better equipped to cope with your new course.
Transfer to a different university
If there is no other course of study at the Goethe-University that interests you, then you should start looking at other universities and institutes of higher education. The Higher Education Compass (Hochschulkompass) will provide you with a comprehensive overview (use the ‘extended search’ function). Should you be looking for a more practically oriented course of studies, then you could investigate “Fachhochschulen” (also called “Universities of Applied Science”, comparable to a polytechnic college) or dual-degree programmes, where you typically complete your studies alongside work in industry. Residential status also shouldn’t be a problem in transferring from one university to another.
A law student, for example, might look into the business law course offered by a Fachhochschule, or, if they already have a law degree in their home country, they could apply for a postgraduate course such as “Postgraduate studies for foreign law graduates” (a course offered by the Goethe-University).
Entering the job market in Germany
If you already have an official qualification for a profession or hold an academic degree from your home country, then you can seek employment in Germany. However, if you discontinue your studies, you cannot obtain a residence permit while looking for work. Instead, you must return to your home country and apply for a visa there in order to find work in Germany.
However, should you find employment while still studying that meets the criteria for a “Blue Card EU” (for further information for seeking employment go here), then you can have your residence status changed accordingly.
The International Career Service offers training and advice for job application processes, and also hosts many events centred on entry into the German job market.
If you already have an undergraduate degree in your home country then there are, occasionally, opportunities for programmes of further education spanning several months that will help prepare you for entering the German job market. These further education programmes can serve as an additional qualification for the German job market, even if you have discontinued your studies. Your residential status should not be a problem if you engage in further education programmes, provided that you are still enrolled and that you do no receive compensation/income payments.
Please note (status May 2017): Impending legal changes may include changes to § 16 Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz) (Academic Studies) that would allow you to change your status to one pursuant to §17 (Other Educational Purposes). This would mean that you no longer need to be enrolled in a university course or return to your home country, apply for a visa, and return with a different residence permit in order to pursue further education.
The same applies for vocational training: currently, international students that wish to switch from academic to vocational training have to return to their home country to apply for a new visa. However, the changes to residential law may change this, so you would no longer need to leave and return with a new visa.
Information on leaving and returning to Germany
There is no set amount of time you need to spend outside Germany. Upon going back to your home country, you can immediately contact the German embassy to apply for a visa that allows you to seek employment. How long it takes the German embassy to process your application for a visa will depend on your home country. If you have already found employment, then you can contact the German embassy in your home country while you are still in Germany in order to schedule an appointment and to sort out which documents you will need to present them with.
As for your work permit, your employer can send a letter of inquiry to the Federal Employment Agency (Arbeitsagentur), so that the German embassy will have access to the explicit approval of the Federal Employment Agency sooner.
Returning to your home country
In some cases it might be more sensible to return to your home country. You ought to weigh the costs and benefits of continuing to invest time in a course of study which you are unlikely to complete, and think about whether you might not have a better chance of finding work in your home country, given that you have already gained valuable experience of living abroad, furthered your knowledge and understanding of German, and earned University Credit Points. Or perhaps some grave event or situation (e.g. mental health issues) suggest it would be better for you to return to your home country as perhaps you would be able to recuperate faster in a familiar environment.
There are institutions that offer advice and seminars and may even support you financially in your decision to return to your home country.
If your current situation is as described here, please think about whether you can and want to still complete your current stage of study, a specific subject (major or minor), or even just a specific module that might benefit your job prospects. You could also complete a practical work experience related to your field of study so that you have proof of job experience within Germany.
You can print out your assessed work (Credit Points) from the subjects in which you are enrolled from QIS to serve as a CP-overview. This is valid as a certification without needing a signature as official proof – “ohne Unterschrift als offizieller Nachweis gültig”. (Should this phrase not appear on the printed page then you should go to the Examination Office to get it stamped and signed)
If you have done assessed work outside of the subjects in which you are enrolled then these will not be recorded on an electronic transcript. If this is the case you should turn to the lecturers of the respective subjects for proof of credit completion in the form of a performance record or module record. You can then take this to your Examination Office, where they can usually grant you a so-called “collective certificate” (Sammelbescheinigung) with a record of all additional credited work outside of your enrolled subjects. This certificate can usually also be signed and stamped.
Student Services Centre: Change in course
So you’ve discontinued your studies – now what? Information portal of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research
This is a web portal aimed primarily at German students but with relevant information for international students, too.
Having second thoughts about your course?! Information offered by Goethe University
This page is a web portal aimed primarily at German students, but with relevant information for international students, too.