Education in Germany for international students
They’re here for more than the beer: young foreigners are being encouraged to study and, if qualified, to work in Germany
Nations such as the UK, Australia and Canada compete fiercely to attract foreign students – and the ability of universities to attract overseas students is an increasingly important factor in immigration policy debates in those countries.
Now, Germany’s new coalition government wants to raise the number of overseas students in the country to 350, 000 by 2020 – up from the present 280, 000. Simultaneously, it aims to enable 50 per cent of German higher education students to undertake some study abroad.
The coalition treaty says the government will achieve this by making increased use of resources through the state-funded German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which promotes international collaborations among German higher education institutions.
The treaty was finalised in late December after three months of negotiations between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling centre-right Christian Democratic Union, its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, and the centre-left Social Democratic Union. In it, the government pledges to internationalise higher education, by attracting more students from outside the European Union to German universities and by sending German students to study abroad.
The number of foreign students in Germany has doubled since 1995, from 140, 000 to 280, 000 at the start of the 2013 academic year. Of these, about 95, 000 are of non-EU origin, according to the DAAD. Now, Merkel’s government, with the help of the DAAD and the German National Association for Student Affairs (DSW), intends to boost recruitment of foreign students by 25 per cent to reach 350, 000 by the end of the decade.
“Our aim is to attract the international academic elite to Germany – to study, complete their doctorates or engage in academic research, ” says Margret Wintermantel, the DAAD’s president. “At the same time, we have to send our students to the world’s best universities to get global qualifications and international experience.”
At present, about a third of Germany’s students go abroad for language courses, internships or university exchanges (400, 000 German students start courses each year and 133, 800 spend part of their studies abroad, according to the latest figures from 2011). Wintermantel wants the government to allocate more funds for bursaries and scholarships abroad.
Yet many German students baulk at studying abroad, fearing that it will not be recognised as part of their degrees because some German institutions are still reluctant to accredit courses from other universities under the European Credit Transfer System. “It is true there are still some problems of recognition for students who have been abroad, ” says Wintermantel, adding that many choose to study abroad after finishing their bachelor’s degree, before embarking on their master’s studies.
Nonetheless, although the US and the UK are still the two top destinations for foreign students heading abroad, Germany now ranks third, according to the latest Education at a Glance report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, ahead of Australia.