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Germany: Universities of applied sciences lead growth in student mobility

In 2010, Germany hosted 244 775 foreign students, an increase of 5 632 from the previous year, according to the newly released 2011 edition of Wissenschaft weltoffen. The number of foreign students (known in German as Bildungsausländer and defined for the purposes of the study as those students who gained their higher education entrance qualification at a foreign school and/or complemented their foreign school qualifications by attending a German Studienkolleg) has witnessed continuous growth in the past two years after a period of decline between 2006 and 2008. Universities of applied sciences (or Fachhochschulen, also known as FH) have contributed significantly to the growing number of Bildungsausländer, particularly through their postgraduate programmes, which recorded a sharp increase of 17% over the previous year. China remains the most popular country of origin, followed at a distance by Russia, Poland and Bulgaria.

On the outgoing side, 22% of German bachelor degree students as of 2011 have been on a study related visit abroad by their sixth semester. This represents a drop of 2% from 2009. However, a sharp increase from 2% to 25% was recorded in the FH sector. 

The report also finds that mobility plays out very differently across disciplines. Engineering attracted an above-average number of Bildungsausländer into Germany, while German engineering students, academics and researchers proved to be the least mobile on the outbound side. Due to the unavailability of certain master degree courses in German institutions and the perception of higher-quality programmes abroad, economics students in Germany are most likely to pursue a foreign master’s degree, followed by law and social sciences students. The same fields – law, social sciences and economics – have the lowest proportion of foreign staff, while engineering and natural sciences reported the largest proportion of foreign staff, indicating, to some extent, the relative attractiveness of these subjects in Germany.

The annual update of Wissenschaft weltoffen, jointly organized by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and Institute for Research on Higher Education (HIS), is available in both print and online versions. Additional (and in-depth) tables on the range of topics covered in the book are also available on the website:

Wissenschaft weltoffen 2011