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Germany on pace to attract 350,000 foreign students

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • We continue our “From the Field” series today in conversation with Andrew Geddes, the founding director of the Eurasia Institute for International Education in Berlin
  • Mr Geddes highlights the growing demand for German education among foreign students and makes some important connections between Germany’s increasing foreign enrolment and overarching demographic and economic trends in the country
  • His observations are reinforced by the most recent statistics on international students in Germany, which highlight a foreign enrolment of more than 321,000 students in 2015 (a nearly 7% increase over 2014)
  • This places Germany well on track to meet its longer-term target of hosting 350,000 students by 2020

Germany looms as large as ever on the world stage this year. A founding member of the European Union, it wields considerable political influence within Europe and around the world. It also boasts the largest economy in Europe, and the fourth-largest worldwide. The German economy is highly internationalised, built on exports, and, in December 2015, unemployment levels reached a new, post-reunification low.

German higher education is also well-regarded, and especially so for science and engineering studies. In the most recent Times Higher Education rankings of the Top 200 institutions in Europe, Germany ran a close second to the historically dominant UK with 36 institutions in the 2016 ranking, and 11 in the top 50.

All of these factors have combined to make Germany an increasingly attractive destination for foreign students, and one of the leading hosts of internationally mobile students worldwide. And to cap it all off, as of October 2014, higher education is completely tuition-free in Germany for both domestic and international students.

Andrew Geddes is the founding director of the Eurasia Institute for International Education (EIIE) in Berlin. In our opening interview clip below, he explains more about the burgeoning demand for German language studies as increasing numbers of students prepare for study and work in Germany.

In our second interview segment below, Mr Geddes highlights the increasing importance of emerging markets in Germany’s international enrolment. He notes as well the strong connection between key sectors of Germany’s economy and the major fields of study in demand among foreign students, including engineering, health sciences, and business studies.

As Mr Geddes also points out, German universities are highly selective. “There are a lot of foreign students applying for the places available,” he says. “So the universities are quite strict in their screening criteria. They want to attract the best students.”

Some of the selectivity may well be a function of increasing demand for higher education in Germany. The most recent statistics from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) reveal that international student numbers in Germany took another big jump last year, continuing a trend of steady increases from 2008 on.

DAAD’s annual Wissenschaft weltoffen kompakt report for 2016 (“Facts and Figures on the International Nature of Studies and Research in Germany”) highlights that Germany hosted 321,569 foreign students in 2015. This represents an increase of 6.71% over the year before (and maintains roughly the same year-over-year growth rates recorded over the previous four years). In a broader context, these latest enrolment figures also bring Germany well within reach of its longer-term goal of hosting 350,000 international students by 2020.

China and India are the two largest sending markets for Germany and have been driving much of that recent-year growth, but students from other European markets – notably Russia, Austria, France, Italy, and Turkey – figure prominently as well.

The selectivity of German universities that we noted earlier naturally figures in the recruitment process, and Mr Geddes notes the importance of local expert team to assist agents and students in successfully navigating Germany’s complex immigration and admissions processes. “It is very important to get to know the market from the inside,” he adds. “To come over to Germany, to visit some of the universities, to get to know the way the German bureaucracy functions.”

Students are also attracted to Germany by solid opportunities to work during their studies as well as after graduation. “Foreign students are allowed to work during their studies for 20 hours per week,” says Mr Geddes. “After graduation, they are allowed to stay here for 18 months and they get a special job search visa for that time.”

Looking ahead, Mr Geddes anticipates that current trends will continue in Germany, in particular that the country will remain committed to internationalisation and to attracting greater numbers of foreign students and that demand for German education will remain strong.

“The German economy is continuing to expand at a fast rate, and so Germany is heavily involved in education as an investment in the future.”

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