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I've applied to a graduate program at a university in Germany and there is relatively clear evidence indicating that they've missed one or even two of my documents in application review based on the responses they've given me. Now they are reluctant to reconsidering my application when I resent the documents to them and explained how those documents mean the reason they mentioned for rejection is clearly not true. This is not a subjective thing and it's completely objective and bureaucratic.

It's stated on my rejection letter that I could appeal the decision at the court and I have their emails where they explained reasons that are in contradiction with each other about those documents, which could help me make the case. I really like that department and want to have the option to go there later in my academic career, but I'm afraid if I take my complaint to the court, the department may develop some level of animosity towards me.

Do you think I should forget about working in that department if I start an appeal process at the court, or could I assume that everyone could just be adults and behave professionally?

Note that while I asked previously about what possible decisions to take, this is just about the consequences of an appeal at court when it comes to working with the department in the future.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Please do not discuss the actual situation or post answers in the comments. If you want to discuss the closure, please take a look at the chat as well as the Meta discussion about this question first. – Wrzlprmft Jun 10 '18 at 11:12
  • Perhaps you can explain what you mean by 'bureaucratic and objective', because the current phrasing makes it doubtful whether it is really such a clear-cut formality. For example, did the uni tell you they didn't consider you because you didn't supply a translation of some certificate, although you did? – henning -- reinstate Monica Jun 10 '18 at 14:24
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    @henning They told me that I don't have the required minimum number of ETCS in my undergrad degree, while I actually have more than what they said is required. They explained the reason for rejection to be that I've had fewer major courses that I actually had (in fact around one-third of what I actually had). The reason for confusion seems to be not counting the courses that were transferred into my degree from where I transferred to the institution I graduated from. – nra Jun 10 '18 at 14:35
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    It's just a university. I wouldn't bother in going to court just to enter a specific college. You're taking it more seriously than you should, for there is no university that should be considered with that attitude. Remember there are many more out there. – M.S Jun 10 '18 at 20:08
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This depends on a lot of factors:

  • Who was involved in the decision to reject your application and replying to your inquiries? Only these people (plus their superiors, such as the head of the admission committee or similar) have to be involved in taking this to court and know of it. However, to what extent you can rely on only these people being involved depends on administrative legislation, which probably only a specialised lawyer¹ could tell you about.

    If your application was rejected due to lacking strict formal requirements, this was probably done by administrative staff, and you are strictly speaking only “attacking” them. If on the other hand, your application was rejected after an interview process or by a committee involving scientific staff (i.e., usually professors), the situation is different.

  • Is the application handled by the university, faculty, or the department? (You can usually find out by looking at whom you interacted with so far.) Now why would this be important? In Germany, there is usually a certain animosity between departments and university-level administration. Scientific staff usually won’t care much if their university’s administration is attacked because they are used to them botching things, but they can get protective of their own department’s administration, who may be much more valuable to them.

  • How valid is your claim? Your case will be viewed differently if somebody really botched something during the process than if all you have in your favour is a technicality.

  • Did you exhaust all other options? Even if you have been clearly been wronged, directly escalating to court instead of trying other methods of resolution will not be in your favour.

  • What happens if you succeed? The best you can expect in most cases that the admission process is resumed at the stage where you were rejected. For example, if your application gets rejected on the entrance check, you still would have to go through an interview process. Unless you and the university want to wait for the next regular round of applications, this means you get an extracurricular interview, etc. Now, if everything goes really professional, all those participating this application will only learn that your application has to be re-evaluated due to a clerical error. But you have to ask yourself how likely this really is depending on the above.

  • Are the positions limited? Would you be taking somebody else’s place? There are master’s programs where everybody with a suitable bachelor degree will be admitted, and the crucial selection is who gets a scholarship (because most students need one). In this case, suing for admission is more likely to be seen as an administrative issue (which the academic staff doesn’t care much about).

At the end of the day, a lot can happen between the full range of:

  • Only a few people you will never interact with again know that you went to court.

  • Everybody knows that you are the person who sued themselves into the programme due to a technicality and nobody will accept you into their group (for a master’s thesis) since you are presumed trouble. On top, everybody hates you because you are the reason that the admission process was overbureaucratised the next year.


¹ whom you should probably consult anyway

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  • Brilliant response, +1. The outcome analysis is particularly helpful. – Captain Emacs Jun 10 '18 at 15:10
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Oh dear.

If the graduate program is prestigious and linked to a scholarship/ paid job, there were many more applicants than spots available.

I don't know why you think they missed some documents. If they wrote you you haven't provided them and you are 100% positive you have, you can try your luck suing.

Otherwise you will be much better off just applying for other programs.

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