Germany is first choice for international students

A recent survey reports that Germany was the first choice for 61 per cent of international students studying in the country (up from 47 per cent in 2009).

A recent survey reports that Germany was the first choice for 61 per cent of international students studying in the country (up from 47 per cent in 2009). It also reports that the procedure for recognising foreign qualifications has improved: In 2012 the rate of recognition of foreign academic degrees was 75 per cent, compared to only 60 per cent in 2009. It is interesting to note that international students are taking more advantage of various forms of support than in the past. The greatest increase is in the numbers of those expressing satisfaction about the information regarding residence regulations and assistance in dealing with public authorities.

Another study confirms that it pays to attract young people from all over the world and to get them to stay in Germany after they gain their degree. According to this study, which was drawn up by Prognos on behalf of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) with funding from the BMBF, consumer spending by international students in Germany was €1.531 billion in 2011. This spending raised €400 million in tax revenues for public-sector budgets, which is about €2,500 per student. The study also points to the positive effects on the national economy once studies are completed which clearly outweigh the costs incurred during academic studies. The study is based on the number of full-time international students in a master's or bachelor's degree programme in 2011-2012 (160,702).

Federal Government and Länder aim to increase international student numbers

The total number of international students enrolled at German institutions of higher education in the winter semester 2012-2013 was around 282,000. Ever more German students are also choosing to go for a period of study abroad. There were 133,800 German students enrolled at an institution of higher education abroad in 2011.

The Federal Government and the Länder adopted a joint ‘Strategy of the Federal and Länder Ministers of Science for the Internationalization of the Higher Education Institutions in Germany’ on 12 April 2013. The Strategy developed joint policy goals in key fields of action to promote internationalization. One key goal is to further increase the international mobility of students.

Periods of study abroad allow university students to gain additional skills and to experience personal growth. Proof of international experience is also becoming more and more important in science and the work world. The Federal Government and the Länder aim to ensure that one in two university graduates gains study-related experience abroad and that at least one in three can claim a minimum three-month study period abroad and/or the acquisition of 15 ECTS credit points. Nearly one third of graduates of German institutions of higher education have now spent a period of study abroad.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research is promoting mobility through the German Academic Exchange Service, other intermediary organizations and with grants under the Federal Training Assistance Act (BAföG).

Recognition of study credits

A number of different instruments have been introduced in the Bologna Process to help make students' academic achievements more transparent and to better assess them. The European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) is a quantitative measure of the overall student workload required to achieve learning outcomes and obtain a degree.

Since 2005, all students are entitled to the Diploma Supplement, free of charge and without having to make a separate application. This supplement contains standardized information describing higher education degrees and the respective qualifications. The Diploma Supplement is attached to the official degree documents as supplementary information.

Germany has fulfilled an important criterion of the Bologna Process with regard to the recognition of studies abroad by ratifying the Lisbon Convention (Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region developed by the Council of Europe and UNESCO). The Convention sets out to facilitate the recognition of qualifications gained in one of the states party to the Convention in another state party.

Financial support

Funding also contributes to student mobility. The amendment to the Federal Training Assistance Act (BAföG), which took effect on 1 January 2008, means that the entire course of study, including the degree phase, is now eligible for funding in all EU Member States as well as in Switzerland. Funding for up to one year can be provided for periods of study outside the EU and Switzerland within the framework of education and training which is otherwise undertaken in Germany, other EU countries or Switzerland. This can be extended to up to five semesters under certain circumstances. Further funding can also be granted. Moreover, intermediary organizations such as the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the ERASMUS Programmes provide scholarships for studies (stays) abroad which are becoming increasingly attractive in the context of university cooperation and programmes that lead to joint degrees in both Germany and a partner country.