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Germany: Wissenschaft weltoffen 2017–ambitious national mobility goals beyond early achievements of EU target

The higher education institutions (HEIs) in Germany have exceeded the European target of hosting 350 000 foreign students in Germany, originally set for 2020, according to the 2017 edition of the annual publication Wissenschaft weltoffen. The current joint mobility survey by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the German Centre for Research on Higher Education and Science Studies (DZHW) shows that compared to 2015 the total mobility rate in later semesters has risen slightly across all types of HEI and study, from 37% to 38%, thus exceeding the 20% European target. This is due to increases in mobility both in master’s programmes at universities of applied sciences (+7 percentage points) and in courses leading to state examinations (+5 percentage points). A significant increase in mobility is, however, still required if the more ambitious national target of 50% set by the German Federal Government, the federal states and the DAAD is to be achieved.

Co-produced by the DAAD and the DZHW, Wissenschaft weltoffen is a bilingual (German/English) publication that provides the most comprehensive account on the internationalisation of higher education and research in Germany, including the most recent data and developments in the mobility flows of students, academics and researchers. This year, improvements have been introduced into this national mobility mapping exercise by differentiating credit and degree student mobility, as well as broadening the mapping of academic/researcher mobility. A special focus has been given to academic mobility and cooperation in the Baltic Sea area in light of the new development of the "Baltic Science Network" (BSN) founded in 2016.

The summary of the findings
below focuses only on student mobility.

Incoming mobility: Around 340 000 foreign students enrolled at German HEIs in 2016. Compared to the previous year, their number increased by 6% or about 19 000 students. This increased the proportion of foreign students among all students to 12.3%, with HEIs in Berlin showing the highest proportion of foreign students (15%). The vast majority of international students enrolled at German HEIs in the 2016 academic year intend to graduate (degree mobility) in Germany (89%), showing an increase of 32% over the past five years. The most frequently studied subject group is Engineering . China remains by far the most important country of origin (with over 32 000 students). In second place with 13 093 students is India, where student numbers have quadrupled in the last decade.

Incoming credit mobility: Just under 29 000 international students were enrolled in 2015 temporarily, i.e. without intending to graduate (credit mobility). Their number has increased by 2% compared to the previous year. More than a third of visiting students came from Western Europe (37%), while a fifth was from the Asia and Pacific region (20%). The leading country of origin was Italy, followed by Spain and China. Around 33 000 Erasmus participants spent time in Germany in 2015, 6% more than in the previous year. France, Spain and Italy are the main countries of origin.

Outgoing degree mobility: The number of Germans enrolled abroad increased from 134 800 in 2013 to 137 300 in 2014, constituting a rise of 2%. Austria, the Netherlands, the UK (despite rising fee levels) and Switzerland remain the four most popular host countries. Very significant increases were also seen in the numbers of German students studying in Russia (+43%), China (+31%), Saudi Arabia (+15%), Portugal (+14%), Poland and Sweden (+13% each). With the exception of China these increases have however occurred from a fairly low base level. A large percentage of German students aiming to graduate abroad are enrolled in the economic and Social Sciences (20% each), followed by Language and Cultural Studies (13%), Mathematics and Natural Sciences (11%). 

Outgoing credit mobility: According to the 2017 DAAD/DZHW mobility survey, the proportion of students who complete a visit abroad during their studies has increased from 37% in 2015 to 38%. Irrespective of this, a significant increase in mobility is still required to achieve the national goal of 50%. The UK, France and Spain top the list of most popular countries. Trailing behind are the Asia and Pacific regions (15%), North America (14%) and USA (12%). Since 1999, the number of annual Erasmus visits by students from German HEIs has more than doubled, to 39 719 in 2015. 80% of Erasmus visits are for study- and 20% for placement purposes.

Transnational education (TNE): TNE has witnessed dynamic developments in recent years. In the academic year 2017, the number of oversees students interested in German TNE offerings increased to 31 330 enrolments. The large majority of German TNE offerings fall under the category of “collaborative TNE forms”. 96% of students were enrolled in joint courses of study or that took place at bi-national universities. A look at the subjects shows a clear, increasing preference for Engineering. Over three quarters of TNE students (77%) are aspiring to complete bachelor’s degrees in the process. In many cases German language training has been an integral part of studies, indicating a desire of these students to prepare themselves to stay-on in the country for a master’s programme at a later stage.

Wissenschaft weltoffen 2017 – Full report

The data for all figures in “Wissenschaft weltoffen 2017” can be downloaded directly here