Mumbai: Harsh Deshmukh is among thousands of students choosing to opt for Germany over other popular study destinations as the country’s free public education, social security, teaching facilities, and work opportunities have piqued their interest.
But a major change in the form of Akademische Prüfstelle (APS) certification for Indian students, which has been in effect since November 2022, has led many like Deshmukh to search for answers on their academic future.
Students troubled by delay in responses
APS certification, which was limited to China and Vietnam previously, was introduced in India to not just attract quality students from the country but also ones who are strictly there for educational purposes.
Yet a backlog of APS applications, which students need to get cleared before applying for their visas, has led to complaints of lack of communication from the Academic Evaluation Centre in the German Embassy in New Delhi on any progress regarding their clearance.
“I applied for APS certification in January and it’s been more than 2 months but I haven’t received any communication from the officials yet. I have been sending emails for an update but to no avail,” stated Deshmukh, who is planning to pursue a Master's in Finance degree from Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Recht Berlin (HRW).
Students who submit their Aadhar cards, passports, mark sheets, degrees, and language certificates must also pay an additional procedure fee of Rs.18,000 for APS certification. But some like Sahil Jondhale are yet to receive any confirmation on their payment.
“I haven’t received any confirmation regarding my queries about the status update of my application as well as my payment. It has been a month since I submitted my documents with the APS office in India,” stated Jondhale, who added that he tried paying directly from the portal during registration as suggested by the officials but the attempts failed which led to him crediting the amount through his bank.
APS aware of problems, assure students
The authorities working with the German Mission in India aren’t oblivious to the pleas raised by students. According to Kasper Meyer, who serves as the Science Counsellor at the German Embassy in Delhi, the authorities have substantially increased the staff at APS and improved their communication with Indian universities to streamline the verification process.
“Please understand that we do not have the resources to individually reply to requests on the status because we are focussing all our resources on the verification,” said a public statement by Meyer on the German Embassy’s social media handle.
Universities work with APS in tackling delays
The summer intake in Germany commences in March-April, with the entire application duration covering the stretch between early December and mid-January, which has forced APS into joining hands with state-recognised institutions in fast-tracking applications of their respective students.
Currently, over 6,000 APS applications of Indian students are being reviewed by the authorities in New Delhi based on the names sent by German institutions of ones who have enrolled for Summer semesters.
“Of the 63 pending applications we had, we were able to help clear 18-20 of them while working with APS. The wait times have proved difficult and created trauma for Indian students,” stated Suboor Bakht, Director, Foreign Branch Office South Asia, Heidelberg University.
“The Covid backlog has added to the delay in APS applications which has created a problem but we have been informed that this issue will be resolved by 2024,” added Bakht, who also hailed the Science and Technology department's efforts in the process.
Questions on certification’s effectiveness
In case of students not being able to receive their certification in time for their classes, universities are now planning to provide online classes or postpone admissions to the next intake so that the pupils are not affected academically.
The German Ambassador to India, Philipp Ackermann, has also written to various universities to further extend their deadlines as the current delays are ‘out of the students’ control.’
Though APS has cleared over 7,000 certificates since its inception in India, they have a mammoth target of 25,000 applications that are yet to be reviewed, as per the public statement released by the Embassy on their social media handle.
“It’s going to take a lot of time for the APS applications to be cleared. I believe they misjudged the number of students who will be applying at German universities. It should have been clear that students who already enrolled will be given priority,” stated Dr. Balasubramanian Ramani, Advisor, India Relations, Leibniz Universitat Hannover.
According to Dr. Ramani, the holdup is not limited to degree students. “We also have exchange students from India who were asked for mandatory APS certification though we have exempted them from the process,” added Ramani, who further stated that case-to-case intervention through communication between German universities and APS is proving to be beneficial.
‘15% of documents for study visa applications fake in India’
Germany, which is home to over 35,000 Indian students, brought in new rules regarding APS in light of fake documents concerning student visa applications from India.
Last year Ambassador Ackermann highlighted that 15% of such applications are fraudulent while committing to ‘look more closely into student visa applications from India.’