The OECD reports that Germany is the leading European source of international students, with an estimated 132,000 students abroad in 2011. Along with being a significant source of outbound students, Germany is also an important destination in its own right. University World News reports that “in 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013 their shares of overall student numbers stood at 23%, 26%, 25%, and 26% respectively”, according to the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).
As these figures illustrate, Germany’s mobility policies balance a focus on the international recruitment students and staff as well as “encouraging and supporting domestic students and academic staff to study or work abroad.” The country’s recruitment strategies are closely tied in with the national cultural, trade, and international development policies which enable an integrated framework to increase the effectiveness of student recruitment.
In the following feature interview with ICEF Monitor, Hilka Leicht, owner and managing director of International Education for Global Minds (IEC), highlights trends and key strategies for recruiting in Europe, with an emphasis on the German and Hungarian markets. She underlines the following key facts about the European market:
- The diversity of national markets within Europe;
- How funding influences push and pull factors for students in Europe;
- The importance of having agents on the ground to establish relationships and obtain updates on the market such as visa changes.
The diversity of European recruitment markets
Ms Leicht stresses that Europe is not a homogenous regional market, and that recruiters need to carefully craft and adapt strategy to address the particular requirements and characteristics of individual European states.
The first point about diversity concerns what kinds of programmes can be positioned from, indeed the key markets include:
- Those to recruit undergraduate and graduate students from;
- Language courses;
- Visiting students (studying abroad for one academic term).
Funding for study abroad
The amount of tuition fees charged for studies abroad has a strong impact on the attractiveness of a European study destination. Similarly, Ms Leicht notes the extent to which students can access quality education at home is often an important factor in driving demand for study abroad. Citing the example of a master’s degrees in Germany, she adds there is a lack of programmes for those with a low grade point average (GPA), but apart from that there is no shortage of university places in the country.
In Hungary however, the number of government funded university places has been cut to 25%, so the other 75% are either waiting for free places or looking for opportunities in fee-paying programmes at home or abroad. Hungarians often look to study and work abroad for a long period of time, if not for the rest of their lives. In contrast, German students prefer to study abroad for one academic term and experience the culture of a host country, before returning home.
With ready access to quality programmes at home, German students may be less inclined to invest heavily in higher education abroad, hence the “semester market” in Germany. The trend is further supported through a funding programme of the German government, Auslands-BAföG, which provides up to €4,600 towards tuition fees for short-term study abroad. Over 600,000 German students currently receive that funding, so “that greatly informs and influences the market in Germany.”
The role of recruitment agents
“Germany is definitely a market where it is very important to have an agent on the ground,” says Ms Leicht. She notes that with a full and free-of-charge degree at home, German students don’t need to go abroad unless they want to do something additional.
Reflecting this aspect of German demand, some agents in Germany focus on specific areas of study such as high school or languages. “They are very demanding about what they want to get out of this one semester abroad, because they want to get credit for each individual course that they take when they get back home,” she adds.