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Country Guide Germany

CARe country guides, developed from May to October 2020, contain systematised relevant information on the national labour markets in the 10 project countries, with the aim of supporting researchers at risk/with refugee background in finding support, job and training opportunities in their host countries. 

In the development and revision of the country guides, the CARe consortium is receiving invaluable help by the selected group of national experts coming from relevant national institutions and CARe focus groups.




Germany is one of the world’s leading countries in research and development and it is also one of the most investing countries in this area. Science and research in Germany are characterised by an excellent infrastructure, a wide variety of disciplines, well-equipped research facilities and competent staff. Germany offers various forms of research locations: universities, non-university institutes, companies and institutions run by federal or state (“Länder”) authorities.

All in all, there are more than 800 publicly funded research institutions in Germany, plus research and development (R&D) centres run by companies such as extensive research by industry. There are approx. 425 higher education institutions in Germany, more than 210 of which are universities of applied sciences. The Federal Government and the German states have set up the “Excellence Initiative” (three rounds, running from 2005 to 2018) followed by the “Excellence Strategy” (running since 2019) to provide additional support for research activities in various disciplines at German universities.

Another special aspect of Germany’s research landscape is the involvement of large and internationally renowned non-university research institutes (namely Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Helmholtz Association, Leibniz Association and Max Planck Society). Nonetheless the private sector is the largest player in research and development. Therefore, in selected areas commercial and academic institutions merge their research and development activities in networks and clusters in order to gain synergy effects.

In addition, cooperation at European and international level has become a crucial component within natural sciences and humanities in Germany.

The German higher education system is predominantly under the responsibility of the federal states (Bundesländer), 16 in total. The respective federal states differ in their education policy depending on their state governments.

The higher education system is broadly subdivided into universities and “Fachhochschulen” (Universities of applied science), which implies a division into more theory - and more applied-oriented approaches. Out of around 425 HE institutions all in all, 128 are universities or equivalent institutions, 216 Fachhochschulen and 52 Colleges of Art and Music plus a range of more specialized HE institutions. Legally only universities have the right to issue doctoral degrees.

A vast majority of all universities in Germany are public institutions. The relationship between the Ministries of the federal states and the universities is regulated by different Acts of Higher Education for each federal state, which in turn are determined and coordinated by the Framework Act of Higher Education, the HRG (Hochschulrahmengesetz), which is in force for all federal states.

In addition to mostly state-funded universities, Germany has a very well-funded network of federal research institutes. Hiring practices vary by discipline, but many of these institutes are looking for and hire staff in Germany as well as internationally.

Currently, two career patterns coexist in Germany, following the enactment of the 2001 reform. As a novelty, the new system introduced Junior Professorship positions, which was conceived as valuable and, in the long-term, an alternative to the traditional “Habilitation” as the prerequisite to become a Professor. Some Junior Professorships are tenured position, whereas neither the Academic Employee nor Academic Assistant positions are tenured. These are held while completing a PhD or Habilitation, respectively.

According to the EUI, networks play an important role to obtain an academic position in Germany. While academic posts are advertised in newspapers such as Die Zeit, potential incumbents are often already informally decided upon in advance and there is a long tradition of approaching potential candidates informally to invite them to apply. The supervisor’s role is therefore decisive for the career of a young scholar.

In terms of networks, while having a previous contact with the university is often very beneficial, it is not always needed to successfully apply for an academic position (depending on the university).


What should be beneficial for researchers with refugee background? Proposals from the CARe Focus Group Germany:

  • Conferences and workshops in cooperation between NGOs and universities
  • Mentoring programmes
  • Linking with different actors for networking purposes
  • Following newsletters (DAAD, Humboldt, etc.)
  • Contacts with researchers in other countries
  • Search for resources at the university where s/he is placed since not all information is always easily available, e.g. one researcher discovered a department focusing on mentoring while another specialised in start-ups
  • Chambers of industry and commerce send information about workshops and events to subscribed members


Full reports on the CARe Focus Groups and Employer Survey are available here.

To raise factual inaccuracies or to provide us with updated information and feedback on the guide, please do not hesitate to contact us at