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Student mobility and Germany: An updated picture

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) recently announced the release of a new edition of the cyclical report on the internationalisation of higher education in Germany, entitled Internationalisierung des Studiums: Ausländische Studierende in Deutschland. Deutsche Studierende im Ausland. As with the previous edition (from 2008), the current report is based on student mobility data collected in the framework of the Social Survey (Sozialerhebung). The Social Survey, which looks at a broad range of social and economic conditions of student life in Germany, is a product of the German National Association for Student Affairs (Deutsches Studentenwerk, or DSW), in conjunction with the Hannover-based research institute Higher Education Information System (HIS). The internationalisation report also makes use of student mobility data from OECD and the German Federal Statistical Office (DESTATIS), which generally cover the international mobility of degree-seeking students. While the data from these various sources cannot be easily juxtaposed, altogether they present an expansive and interesting statistical overview of the German student mobility situation.

Citing OECD figures, the report highlights that Germany continues to be the 3rd destination in the world for foreign degree-seeking students, after the US and the UK.  The total number of foreign students in Germany – comprised of Bildungsausländer (foreign students educated abroad) and Bildungsinländer (foreign students with a German education) – was 245 522 in 2008, which is actually down slightly from the previous edition of the report (259 797 in 2005). The largest foreign student populations in Germany hail, in rank order, from China, Russia, Poland, Bulgaria and Turkey. As for the outflow, again according to OECD, in 2008, 94 408 German students were enrolled abroad for a degree, making Germany the 4th largest sending country globally.

In terms of some key qualitative aspects of international mobility, the report shows that social background seems to be a significant factor in study abroad for German students. Those mobile students coming from families with high incomes are seen to study abroad at much higher rates than those from lower income families and 75% of surveyed students say they benefit to some degree from financial assistance from their parents. Nearly two-thirds (60%) are scholarship holders of some sort while mobile. On the inbound side, the survey found that the top reasons for studying in Germany had to do with perceptions that Germany is a centre for advanced technology (65%) and the desire to improve language skills (64%). Once in the country, the challenges most typically faced by international students relate to difficulties in dealing with the German study system, financial barriers and the lack of contact with German students.

Currently available only in German, an English language version of the report is due to be available in March 2011.

DSW (in German)