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Germany’s Akademische Prüfstelle certificate – backlog and hurdles hampering success

When Vaisakh Pillai opened his mail expecting the Akademische Prüfstelle certificate, a mandatory document for Indian students wishing to study in Germany, four months after he applied for it in August 2023, it wasn’t quite the eureka moment he hoped for.

Photo: pexels

"Between October 2022 and February 2024, over 57,000 Indian students applied for APS verification"

“The German Embassy called me saying that my college login credentials were wrong. Though I had changed them I did send the Embassy the right one which they didn’t notice,” said Pillai.

But his troubles didn’t end there.

“I received a mail from the Embassy in January 2024 with the APS certificate, only that it wasn’t mine and some other student’s,” added Pillai, who finally got his certificate within a couple of days after he sent repeated emails to the Embassy.

But Pillai’s case is not the only instance. Browse through the German Embassy in India’s social media and you will find many Germany-bound students lamenting their situation.

“I applied for APS in Feb 2023. For almost a year, I haven’t received my APS. The college won’t refund fees. I have lost a lot,” says one such comment.

Germany’s introduction of APS in India in October 2022 came after Ambassador Philip Ackermann highlighted that 15% of all study visa applications from India are ‘fraudulent’. In 2023, Ackermann later said 5-10% were fraudulent.

The process, earlier limited to China and Vietnam, requires the APS department to authenticate academic documents submitted by the students before they apply for a study visa.

With no set duration for when they will receive the certificate, students have to delay their visa process accordingly thus creating a domino effect.

“I am supposed to submit my APS to the university by February 29 as the classes will begin in March,” said Rishik Sharma, who has applied at the Technical University of Braunschweig.

“I applied for the APS in December and sent my undergraduate college’s professor and DigiLocker details as requested in January 2024 but there has been no response from the Embassy since then. I am very anxious about losing a year.”

In November 2023, member of the Legislative Council in Maharashtra, Satyajeet Tambe, wrote a letter to the German Consul General in Mumbai, Achim Fabig, on the delays taking up to five to six months.

“The situation has not improved much concerning getting an APS certificate. The next step is to follow up with the Consul General and seek an update,” Tambe told The PIE.

“I will also urge the Union Foreign Affairs minister S. Jaishankar to look into the matter at the earliest since the phenomenon is on the rise and there has yet to be any visible improvement or communication from Germany.”

German universities have hailed significant progress in the Embassy’s processing of APS for Indian students.

“The situation with APS is much better now considering the Embassy has also increased its staff to deal with the same. All 63 of our pending student applications with the APS have been cleared now,” said Suboor Bakht, director, Foreign Branch Office South Asia for Heidelberg University.

Though the sentiment was supported by Balasubramanian Ramani, advisor – India Relations, Leibniz University Hannover, he suggested reviewing the APS process in India.

“Germany must assess the APS in India because they misjudged the number of applications”

“Though we receive fewer applications in the summer, I haven’t received any complaints from the students this year. APS received a huge number of applications in India in a short amount of time but the backlog was a problem of the past. Due to additional human resources and optimisation of the process, it’s certainly much improved,” warned Ramani.

According to numbers released by the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry in November 2023, half of German companies are unable to fill vacancies as a total of 1.8 million jobs remain unfilled in the country’s economy.

In such circumstances, Indian students believe their ability to access opportunities in Germany should be made easier.

“As an aspiring student looking to study in Germany, I find the APS requirement to be a hurdle,” said Sameena Shaikh, a Mumbai-based student.

“With increasing collaborations between India and Germany, streamlining the visa process would benefit both countries. Removing APS would encourage more talented individuals to pursue education and contribute to Germany’s economy,” said Sameena Shaikh, a Mumbai-based student.

Another student Anurag Yardi, who received his APS in less than two months, believes the process is necessary to crack down on fake documents but urges for changes.

“Firstly, I believe that when the documents reach the APS office, they should update it on the site that they received the documents. Secondly, they should also update the aspirant on how much the process is completed. They must bring down the verification time for everyone,” added Yardi.

Despite the apprehensions about APS, official numbers seen by The PIE suggest a significant increase of certificates between August 2023 to February 2024.

“Between October 2022 and February 2024, over 57,000 Indian students applied for APS verification, with over 95% of these applications being successfully processed,” Kaspar Meyer, Science Counsellor, German Embassy in India, told The PIE.

“The remaining applications, yet to be processed, are primarily due to incomplete payments or pending receipt of application documents. Last year we looked into the student grievances and implemented digital certificates instead of paper printed ones while also increasing the staff at the APS fourfold.”

Meyer, a regular feature on the Embassy’s social media regarding information about the APS, also suggested key points to the students.

“We need the student’s payment and signed documents to start working on their application. It’s also important that the registrar, college or the professor, cooperating with us during a student’s assessment, have or in their mail IDs since they are officially licensed,” recommended Meyer,

He also advised students to avoid using agents for the application process, safeguarding them from potential fraud.

Amid debate over APS, Indian students have outpaced their Chinese counterparts in recent years, with almost 46,000 of them studying at German universities in 2022-23 compared to over 39,000 Chinese students.

“Great! 42,000+ Indian students in Germany, 25 % more within one year. India now no. 1 group of foreign students in Germany, much faster than expected!” said a tweet by Ackermann in August 2023.

“Germany is popular among Indian students – and Indian students are popular in Germany, I hear from professors very often.”

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