Coalition Government Targets 350,000 International Students - Germany

Source : Times Higher Education

After three months of negotiations, a coalition agreement between Germany’s biggest political parties was reached in late December. As part of the new agreement, the government aims to increase international students studying in Germany to 350,000 by 2020, while increasing outbound mobility to 50 percent of all higher education students. The main focus of the government’s recruitment efforts will be in attracting students from outside the European Union.

In the 185-page agreement between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) the government says: “By the end of the decade we will see to it that the number of foreign students is increased by about a third, to about 350,000.”

Mobility to Germany has doubled from 140,000 international students in 1995-1996 to 280,000 in 2012-2013 resulting in a 6 percent market share of all international students globally. Of those, about 95,000 are from non-EU countries, according to data from the state-funded German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), one of the lead agencies responsible for promoting German education abroad.

Officials interviewed by The PIE News said that to attract students Germany needs to effectively promote itself as welcoming, attractive and linguistically accessible. On the last point, the government plans to continue to increase the number of English-taught programs, as it has over the last 10 years, while also encouraging the learning of German on the side. The government is also committed to keeping studies tuition free, regardless of nationality, one of the biggest pulls for foreign students and a major reason why Germany is currently the third most popular destination among foreign students, after the U.S. and UK.

Other measures designed to attract overseas talent include greatly improved rights for jobseekers with a German degree or recognized overseas equivalent. With proof of degree and evidence of adequate funding to support themselves, foreign degree holders can enter the country for six months to look for work on a jobseekers visa. Once they have found a job and can show that they will earn at least €46,000 (US$61,000) a year, they can stay. Under the Professional Qualifications Assessment Act introduced in April 2012, the recognition of foreign credentials is also being fast-tracked; however, that service has reportedly been underutilized, largely due to a lack of services to accommodate credential evaluations.

The government will also support DAAD’s efforts to increase the number of German students enrolled at higher education institutions abroad by allocating more funds for bursaries and scholarships abroad. Currently about one third of domestic students study abroad. The government wants to see the proportion rise to one in every two students by 2020.