Information on using foreign university degrees, university titles, and university positions in Berlin

Doktorhut und Urkunde auf blauem Hintergrund
Image: SergPoznanskiy /Depositphotos.com

This translation is provided for your information only.

Any legal action must be based on the German original.

Using a foreign university degree or title or a university position in Berlin does not require authorization or approval. That is why no certificates recognizing the equivalency of these degrees, titles, or positions are issued.

A university degree is considered a foreign university degree if it was awarded by a foreign university. This is the case even if it was awarded based on a cooperation agreement with a non-university educational institution in Germany. Examples of these kinds of university degrees are the Bachelor of Arts in the United Kingdom, Kandidat nauk in Russia, Doctor of Philosophy in Canada, or Fough lisans – Karshenasi le Asans in Iran. University titles and positions include the title professor, visiting professor, or private lecturer, for example.

Using foreign university degrees, titles, or positions in Berlin is regulated in Sec. 34a of the Berlin Higher Education Act (Berliner Hochschulgesetz, BerlHG). It is prohibited to use a degree, title, or position in a way that deviates from the provisions in Sec. 34a BerlHG and can even have criminal consequences (Sec. 132a German Criminal Code, StGB). University degrees and titles that were purchased may not be used.

According to Sec. 34a(1) BerlHG, a foreign university degree, title, or position may be used regularly

  • only in the original form, that is, precisely the form in which it was awarded,
  • with the inclusion of the university that awarded the degree (known as the “origin information”).

The original form awarded can be transcribed into Latin script letter for letter (not translated!) if the original form is in another alphabet (e.g. Cyrillic, Sanskrit, Thai). A literal translation may be included in parentheses. In addition, the approved or proven customary abbreviation of the degree, title, or position in the country in which it was awarded may be used. This means that a direct conversion into a German abbreviation (e.g. “Dr.” or “Prof.”) is typically not permitted.

Example
A Russian doctorate that was transcribed from the Cyrillic alphabet:
kandidat ekonomiceskich nauk / Akademija narodnogo chozjajstva pri Pravitelstve Rossijskoj Federacii (Kandidat der Wirtschaftswissenschaften)
Abbreviation: k.e.n. / ANH (Kandidat der Wirtschaftswissenschaften).

The requirement for using the original form with origin information is that

  1. the degree, title, or position was awarded by a university recognized according to the laws of that country and
  2. the degree, title, or position was awarded based on a university degree recognized according to the laws of that country following university studies properly completed with an examination.

The Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB) manages a database called anabin (www.anabin.kmk.org) that includes extensive information about foreign universities and degrees – currently from around 180 countries. Using this information, the ZAB has determined whether the degrees the ZAB reviewed meet these two criteria and how the degrees/titles may be used.

If you want to know

  • whether the degree you obtained fulfills the requirements in Sec. 34a(1) BerlHG,
  • whether the degree you obtained may be used in the original form with origin information,
  • which abbreviation you may use for the degree you obtained abroad, and
  • which German degree corresponds to the degree you obtained abroad,

you can find this information in the anabin database. To do so, you will usually need to click on the link “Hochschulabschlüsse” on the left-hand side of the page under www.anabin.kmk.org and then click on the link “Suchen nach Abschlüssen” at the top of the page in the middle. When you have found your degree by choosing the country, the type of degree, and, if applicable, the field of study, then click on the + in the purple circle to the left of the degree to find more information. You can find more detailed instructions in German on how to search for the degree on the site www.anabin.kmk.org.

If you need to provide information to other agencies about your foreign university degree, title, or position, please print out information from the anabin database for them.

If you cannot find a university or your specific degree in the database, please request additional information. If the information in the anabin database is not sufficient, you can also have your academic degree individually assessed by the ZAB for a fee (https://www.kmk.org/zab/central-office-for-foreign-education/expert-assessment.html).

The frequently asked questions (FAQ) could also be helpful, which you can find in English below.

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There are a few exceptions to the basic policy that only the original form may be used with origin information:

1. Special regulations for university degrees from European universities

  • a. For university degrees but not for honorary degrees from the member states of the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA), as well as the European University Institute Florence and the pontifical universities, the origin information may be left off. That means that university degrees from these countries may be used in the original form even without origin information. This also applies to those with what are called “professional doctorates”.
  • b. Doctorates that were obtained in a country listed under Number 1.a at a state university or a state-recognized university based on an academic doctoral examination procedure may
    - either be used with the abbreviation according to the general rules in the country in which it was awarded or
    - may be used with the typical German abbreviation “Dr.” without origin information and without stating the subject in which the degree was awarded if the degree is assigned to the third cycle of the Bologna classification for university degrees in the country in which it was awarded. The abbreviation recognized in the country of origin and the German abbreviation “Dr.” may not be used at the same time.

Doctoral degrees from the states listed under Number 1.a that were awarded based on a doctoral examination procedure but are not assigned to the third cycle of the Bologna classification for university degrees according to the legal provisions in the country of origin (1st cycle: bachelor’s degree, 2nd cycle: master’s degree, 3rd cycle: academic doctorate) (e.g., what are called “small” doctorates from the Czech Republic and Slovakia) may only be used with the German form “Dr.” if

- the doctoral degree was awarded by 6 September 2007 or admission to the doctoral examination procedure was at least granted by 6 September 2007 and
- the holder of this doctoral degree lived in Berlin at the time it was awarded.

Doctoral degrees from the states listed under Number 1.a that are not assigned to the third cycle of the Bologna classification and do not fall under the deadline listed above must be used in the original form or with the abbreviation approved in the country in which it was awarded. The same applies if the doctoral degree was awarded without either a doctoral degree program or a doctoral examination procedure (“professional doctorates”).

If the title is to be used in other German states, the legal provisions for doing so must be checked with the responsible state ministry.

2. Special regulations for doctoral degrees from countries outside of Europe

Due to interstate agreements, doctoral degrees from certain countries outside of the European Union and the European Economic Area may also use the German abbreviation “Dr.”

- either without origin information and without stating the subject in which the degree was awarded (only “Dr.”) or
- with origin information and without stating the subject in which the degree was awarded (“Dr./origin information”)

Which states and which doctoral degrees fall under this special regulation and how they may be used can be found under Numbers 3 and 4 of the Agreement of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany on favorable regulations according to Number 4 of the “Principles for using titles obtained with foreign academic university degrees for the purposes of a general statutory authorization based on common legal provisions from 14 April 2000”
(http://www.kmk.org/fileadmin/pdf/ZAB/Gradfuehrung_Beschluesse_der_KMK/grundaus3.pdf) and, if applicable, in the anabin database.

3. Special regulations for people who have rights according to the Federal Displaced Persons and Refugees Act (BVFG)

According to the Federal Displaced Persons and Refugees Act, recognized refugees and repatriates (Sec. 10 Federal Displaced Persons and Refugees Act) may still request that their academic degrees and titles be converted into a German title. For questions related to this, please send us an email .

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A foreign honorary degree must usually also be used in the original form in which it was awarded together with the institution that awarded it. The institution must be authorized to award the honorary degree. Using the honorary degree is not permitted if the laws in the country in which it was awarded do not provide for honorary degrees being awarded or if the title is a purely university-internal honor. The title may not be translated. The approved or proven customary abbreviation in the country in which it was awarded may be used.

Using an honorary doctoral degree is only permitted if the institution that awarded the honorary doctoral degree is also authorized to award actual academic doctoral degrees or at least has the authorization to carry out the doctoral examination procedure (“Aspirantur”) (Sec. 34a(1) sentence 2 BerlHG).

Russian universities do not have the right to award actual professor titles. According to a government decision from 10 December 2013 no. 1139, this right is reserved solely for the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Education and Science. However, the right to award degrees/titles is the basis for awarding these degrees/titles as honorary degrees/titles. This means: Honorary professorial titles awarded by Russian Federation universities lack the requirement of being authorized to award corresponding actual titles.

A foreign honorary professorial title may be used under the conditions described above if it was awarded by a foreign university. If it was awarded by another institution, the approval of the Office of the Federal President (Honors Office) is required if it is to be used. The address of the Office of the Federal President is Spreeweg 1, 10557 Berlin.

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If you want to pursue a specific profession for which access to the career and/or practicing the career in Berlin requires proof of a certain qualification according to laws or ordinances, or if the professional title is protected by law (known as “regulated professions”, e.g., medical doctor, engineer, interpreter, architect, preschool teacher, etc.), the respective agency will assist you (e.g., the Berlin State Office for Health and Social Affairs for licensing medical doctors). Only these agencies are permitted to recognize your qualification if it is possible based on the foreign university degree.
You can find further information at http://www.berlin.de/sen/bjf/anerkennung/berufliche-qualifikationen/ or at www.berufliche-anerkennung.de
and https://www.kmk.org/zab/central-office-for-foreign-education/certificate-of-equivalence.html.

If the profession you are pursuing is an activity that does not require state licensing, then in general the assessment of your university degree based on the information in the anabin database is sufficient. If necessary, you can also have your academic degree individually assessed by the ZAB for a fee (https://www.kmk.org/zab/central-office-for-foreign-education/expert-assessment.html).

If you want to study at a Berlin university based on a degree obtained at a foreign university, you will need to contact the universities directly or www.uni-assist.de if the university at which you want to study uses its services.

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Frequently asked questions (FAQ) on the recognition of non-German university degrees

You should contact the university at which you would like to continue your studies. This university will check whether your study credits and qualifications earned outside Germany may be counted towards your studies in Germany. More details can be found on the websites of Berlin’s universities.

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No, in general you do not need to have your degree recognized. However, for certain professions (referred to as “reglementierte Berufe,” or regulated professions), such as teachers, doctors, civil servants, and preschool teachers, your non-German degree will be evaluated as part of the regular assessment process designed to check if applicants satisfy the requirements for practicing a particular profession. Decisions will be made by the relevant administrative departments responsible for these professions. More information can be found at https://www.berlin.de/sen/bjf/anerkennung/berufliche-qualifikationen/ (in German).

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Details on how international academic degrees compare to German degrees can be found in the anabin database at http://anabin.kmk.org/anabin.html (in German). If your employer requires that you submit an official document of comparability for your international degree you can contact the Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB) (https://www.kmk.org/zab/central-office-for-foreign-education.html), which will issue a statement of comparability for a fee.

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If you have studied in a foreign country and have duly completed the requirements for university studies at a university that is accredited under the laws of that country, you may use the academic title earned in its original form. You can also use an abbreviation for the degree that is customary in the country of origin. A reference to the awarding university must be added. If the degree certificate conferring the academic title uses a non-Latin-based script, the title may be transliterated. Please refer to the anabin database for more details.

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A non-German academic title earned in an EU member state may be used as conferred by the university. It is not necessary to state its origin. The German title “Dr.” may be used by holders of a doctorate that is classified as a third-cycle degree in the Bologna system under the laws of the EU country in which it was obtained. In such cases, the doctorate’s origin and academic field (e.g., Dr. med., Dr. rer. nat.) need not be stated. However, this does not apply to what is known as a “Berufsdoktorat” (“professional doctorate”), i.e., doctorates awarded on the basis of a completed course of study. Please refer to the anabin database for further details. The three cycles of the Bologna process are as follows:

  • Bachelor’s degree (undergraduate)
  • Master’s degree (postgraduate)
  • Doctorate
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According to Sec. 34a of the Berlin Higher Education Act (BerlHG) the title must be used in conjunction with the name of the awarding higher education institution. You may include this reference using an asterisk provided that the name of the higher education institution is clearly visible and in close proximity to the academic title.

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Only doctorates earned after completing a doctoral examination procedure that is equivalent to the third cycle in the Bologna system may be included on your ID card. The three cycles of the Bologna system are as follows:

  • Bachelor’s degree (undergraduate)
  • Master’s degree (postgraduate)
  • Doctorate
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No. The terms “diploma,” “master,” “bachelor,” etc. refer to academic degrees awarded by public or accredited universities after completing a degree program and taking an exam. Sec. 34 of the Berlin Higher Education Act (BerlHG) stipulates that only public or accredited universities are entitled to award this kind of degree.

“Diploma” certificates issued by institutions that are not authorized to award this degree do not entitle you to use it as an academic title. They also do not confer the same rights that a university degree would.

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A list of public and accredited universities in Berlin can be found here. https://www.berlin.de/sen/wissenschaft/einrichtungen/hochschulen/ If a particular educational institution is not included on the list, it may still be entitled to award university degrees directly or on behalf of other institutions.
One possibility is that a particular educational institution is accredited in a different federal state or a different country and has a branch campus in Berlin.
Another possibility is that the educational institution that is not accredited as a university is collaborating with an accredited university in Berlin, in a different federal state, or in a different country, and that the non-accredited institution is responsible for offering the study program on behalf of the accredited university. In this case, the degree will be awarded by the collaborating university. If the university is located outside Germany, the rules on non-German university degrees apply.

If you wish to check if the information provided by the non-accredited institution is correct, we would recommend that you contact the university awarding the degree or the government department responsible for accreditation of the university. In addition, you can check the anabin database to see if the international university that awards the degree exists or is accredited, and if it actually awards the degree in question.

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If the non-German honorary doctorate was awarded by an accredited university entitled to award both the honorary doctorate and the corresponding actual doctorate, the honorary doctorate may be cited in its original non-German form in conjunction with a reference to the university that awarded it and must be used in accordance with the rules and regulations governing the use of that title in the country of origin. Degrees and titles that were purchased may not be used. Anyone who claims to hold a degree must be able to produce an official certificate when required to do so by a regulatory authority as proof that they are entitled to hold their degree.

For further information please refer to the documents available at the Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB) https://www.kmk.org/zab/central-office-for-foreign-education.html .

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Yes, provided that the Russian university is authorized to offer study programs leading to the award of doctorates and is accredited in Russia. The honorary degree may be used in its original non-German form in conjunction with a reference to the awarding university (see above).

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A non-German honorary professorship conferred by a university outside Germany may be used in accordance with the rules governing the award of that title and must be cited in its original non-German form in conjunction with a reference to the institution that conferred it. The title may not be translated. An abbreviation may be used if it is authorized in the country of origin or if it can be demonstrated that it is commonly used there.

The Office of the Federal President (Honors and Decorations Division) is responsible for granting authorization for the use of non-German honorary professorship titles.

The address of the Office of the Federal President is as follows: Bundespräsidialamt, Spreeweg 1, 10557 Berlin, Germany.

Please refer to the website of the Office of the Federal President for further information, e.g., on opening hours: https://www.bundespraesident.de/DE/Service/Buergerkontakt/buergerbuero-node.html

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The entries on research institutions in the anabin database are not systematically updated. As a rule, Russian “Candidate” and “Doctor” degrees can be used in Germany provided that anyone who holds such a degree is able to prove their entitlement by producing a “Candidate of Sciences” (Kandidat nauk) or a “Doctor of Sciences” (Doktor nauk) diploma. This diploma must be issued by the Supreme Certifying Committee (Vysshij Attestatsionnyj Komitet, VAK) of the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Education and Science or any of its predecessor institutions. Diplomas issued by other bodies, such as private certifying committees, will not be recognized. It is therefore irrelevant at which institution the doctoral examination procedure was carried out.

Please note: In the Russian Federation, only professorships and doctorates conferred by the Supreme Certifying Committee (Vysshij Attestatsionnyj Komitet, VAK) of the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Education and Science are officially recognized (cf. the ruling of 7 February 2013 by the Gießen administrative court, case no. 21 K 555/11.Gl.B).

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In general, these titles may not be used. In Berlin, the following special regulation applies:

In Berlin, “small” doctorates from former Czechoslovakia, Slovakia, or the Czech Republic awarded on or before 6 September 2007 after conclusion of an academic doctoral examination procedure may be used by affixing “Dr.” to one’s name without stating the origin of the degree. The same applies to “small” doctorates awarded after conclusion of a doctoral examination procedure to which the student was admitted on or before 6 September 2007. If anyone who holds such a degree wishes to use it in a different German federal state, the ministry of education and cultural affairs (“Kultusministerium”) of that state should be contacted for information on the local legal situation.

Anyone who was awarded a “small” doctorate or admitted to the doctoral examination procedure after 6 September 2007 or who was awarded a “small” doctorate without completing a doctoral examination procedure or degree program may use the title in its original form or in an abbreviated form that is authorized in the country of origin or that can be demonstrated to be in common usage there. If the award of the degree or admission to the doctoral examination procedure occurred after 6 September 2007, the abbreviation “Dr.” may only be used if the doctorate is classified as a third-cycle degree in the Bologna system under the laws of that country. Doctorates obtained in conjunction with a vocational degree program (“professional doctorates”) may be used only in their original form (e.g., MUDr., MDDr., MVDr.).

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An academic degree may only be used in a particular federal state if it is admissible under the laws of that state. When you move to a different federal state in Germany, the rules and regulations of that state will apply.

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If the Ph.D. was awarded by a US university listed as a research university in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, you can use it in Berlin by affixing “Dr.” to your name without specifying the academic subject or origin of the degree. The same applies to doctorates from Japan, Israel, Australia, and Canada. However, you can also use these degrees in their original form.

If the Ph.D. was awarded by a US university that is not listed as a research university in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, you can use it by affixing “Ph.D.” to your name in conjunction with a reference to its origin.

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Sec. 34a(6)(2) of the Berlin Higher Education Act (BerlHG) stipulates that degrees that have been purchased may not be used as titles. This also applies when a degree is offered for sale by an accredited university or a university professor. Pursuant to Sec. 132a of the German Criminal Code (StGB), using an academic degree that was purchased is a criminal offence punishable by prison or a fine.

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If we find out that you are using an academic degree as a title without being authorized to do so, we will demand that you cease using it. If you do not comply with that demand, we will issue an official cease-and-desist order that can be enforced by coercive administrative measures (e.g., coercive fines). Coercive fines may be imposed repeatedly until the unauthorized title is no longer used.

In addition, a criminal investigation may be launched. Pursuant to Sec. 132a of the German Criminal Code (StGB), anyone using academic degrees or titles without authorization may be liable to imprisonment or a fine. Under Sec. 132a(2), this also applies to titles that are easy to confuse with academic degrees or titles.

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