FAQ – From work to study

From work to studies – all the important questions and answers
“Tell me again how it works?” Our FAQ provides concise, straightforward answers to important questions about recognition of prior learning, for example regarding your competences from training, work and more.

If it can be proven that you have the required competences or achievements at the time of application, it is usually irrelevant when you acquired them. For this to happen, however, the learning outcomes must actually match in terms of content and level. For example, if you acquired computer skills in the nineties, your university cannot assume that your competences correspond to the current state of science and technology. But if the content and level of the existing and required competences match, competences can be recognised throughout life.

If your competences acquired abroad are equivalent to the higher education requirements in Germany in terms of content and level, they can be recognised as prior learning. The fact that you acquired them abroad is irrelevant. Only the competences you possess are relevant.

It’s possible in principle. For example, you could have a competence acquired outside higher education recognised again for a module if it had already played a role in the context of access to the study programme.

The recognition of your non-academic achievements and qualifications only happens on application. If you are not satisfied with a grade, you do not have to apply for recognition of prior learning (RPL) for those achievements or qualifications. Of course, in that case you have to take the module in the standard way and complete it with an examination.

If you apply to have an achievement or qualification from your training recognised you cannot subsequently improve the grade set for it as part of your studies. However, recognition of prior learning only happens on application – if you are dissatisfied with a grade you achieved in your training, you don’t have to decide to have that achievement or qualification recognised.

Unfortunately, this cannot be answered in general; it depends, among other things, on the definition of an examination status and on whether your university excludes recognition of prior learning at this time. So it depends on the requirements laid down by your university whether this is possible. You should therefore contact the relevant office or contact person at your university.

In that case, you should first take advantage of the opportunity to receive individual advice from the relevant contact person at your university. In that conversation, you can clarify whether there are alternatives to the work sample that you can present as proof. It might be useful to take advantage of a further competence assessment procedure, if your university offers this. This can confirm your qualification and determine the level of your learning outcomes. However, it does not constitute a re-examination or award or change a grade. Competence assessment procedures include, for example:

  • Preparation of (seminar) papers (e.g. on subject-relevant topics),
  • Processing complex tasks with work requirements typical of the occupation concerned,
  • Discussions/expert talks/interviews,
  • Presentations,
  • Simulations of work situations,
  • Observations and
  • Competence tests for the analysis of competences.

However, universities are not obliged to offer competence assessment procedures. You should therefore enquire at your university whether such a procedure is a possibility.

This regulation is intended to ensure that the main part of your degree still took place at the university that ultimately issues the qualification and the transcript to you (cf. “Begründung zur Musterrechtsverordnung gemäß Artikel 4 Absätze 1 bis 4 Studienakkreditierungsstaatsvertrag”, p. 13, German only).

Recognition of prior learning is primarily regulated by the higher education acts of the federal states, which contain guidelines for RPL.

According to the current legal situation (status: September 2022), there is no overarching legal basis for the area of recognition of prior learning for competences acquired outside higher education. Beyond the requirements of the state higher education acts (LHGs), the following resolutions form a common “orientation framework”:

  • Resolutions of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder (KMK-Beschluss zur Anrechnung von 2002 and KMK-Beschluss zur Anrechnung von 2008)
  • The states’ common structural guidelines for the accreditation of bachelor’s and master’s study courses (resolution of the KMK of 10.03.2003 in the version of 04.02.2010; German: Ländergemeinsame Strukturvorgaben für die Akkreditierung von bachelor- und Masterstudiengängen) with the corresponding interpretation notes by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder (Handreichung des Hochschulausschusses der KMK of 25.03.2011) and the Accreditation Council (Auslegung der ländergemeinsamen Strukturvorgabenresolution of the AR in the version of 03.06.2013),

State treaty on study accreditation (Germen: Staatsvertrag über die Organisation eines gemeinsamen Akkreditierungssystems zur Qualitätssicherung in Studium und Lehre an deutschen Hochschulen (Studienakkreditierungsstaatsvertrag) and corresponding ordinances of the Länder.

According to most state higher education acts, as well as the model legal ordinance (pursuant to Article 4, paragraphs 1 – 4 of the Interstate study accreditation treaty) and the resolutions of the KMK from 2002 and 2008, the recognition of prior learning for competences acquired outside higher education is possible individually or via lump-sum recognition for up to a maximum of 50 percent of the academic achievements to be attained. If the content and level are equivalent to the part of the course to be replaced, the prerequisites applicable to higher education access are met and the qualitative-content-related RPL criteria are checked as part of the accreditation, recognition must/could/should be granted (depending on the respective LHG).

The recognition of previously acquired competences usually takes place after your matriculation.