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Germany: new President of Rectors’ Conference, happy international students and changes in residence laws

Horst Hippler, the President of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), is succeeding Margret Wintermantel as the President of HRK, Germany’s Rectors’ Conference. In a narrow vote, the 65-year old physicist was elected for a 3-year period, starting on 1 May.  Hippler had been a controversial candidate. He had openly spoken out in favour of nuclear energy and the introduction of tuition fees. In particular, Germany’s colleges (Fachhochschulen) and smaller universities were at odds with his elite-focused approach.  Hippler had also been the founding President of TU9, a network of Germany’s leading technical universities. In a statement after his election, the new HRK President spoke out in favour of diversity and promised to promote the interests of all German higher education institutions.

Together with DAAD, HRK also reports on the country’s happy international students. GATE Germany, the HRK-DAAD consortium for the promotion of German higher education abroad, had commissioned a separate analysis of the satisfaction of international students as part of i-graduate’s International Student Barometer (ISB). ISB sampled some 18 000 international students in Germany, as part of their worldwide 210 000 cohort. German higher education institutions scored higher than their counterparts on the practice orientation and research-base of study programmes, on good technical equipment and on good teachers. But there is also room for improvement, as HRK stresses.

Still regarding foreign students and graduates, Germany’s Bundestag (lower house of parliament) did its homework and passed a bill to translate into German law the EU directive on entry and residence of highly qualified workers. The law, passed on 27 April, goes partly beyond EU minimum requirements. The act increased the annual part-time work limit for foreign students to 120 days (earlier:  90 days) and allows graduates a stay of 18 instead of 12 months after graduation, in order to be able to seek qualified employment.

The desirability of such changes was underscored by the study Mobile talent? The staying intentions of international students in five EU countries (France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK). This piece of research finds that over two thirds of foreign students in the five countries would in principle stay on for work after graduation, but only a quarter does in reality (a third in France).  The reasons for the low ‘retention’ rate, and the loss of talent as a consequence, are information deficits on the part of foreign students, but also a not too strongly developed ‘welcome culture’ in the host countries.

HRK (New President) HRK (Attractiveness of German higher education) DAAD (Residence law) SVR (Mobile Talent)