GERMANY: Student mobility rising fast, study shows

The number of German students studying abroad doubled in 2000-08. A survey suggests that they are much more mobile than students from most other countries, with only China, India and South Korea sending more students abroad. At the same time, the number of students from other countries coming to Germany to study rose by around 250% in 11 years.

The report on the internationalisation of studies demonstrates that the number of students going abroad almost doubled from 52,200 in 2000 to 102,000 in 2008.

The survey was conducted by the German Welfare Service, DSW, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and scientifically backed by Hochschul-Informations-System, a company specialising in higher education statistics. A total of 16,370 students were interviewed in 2009.

Of Germany's roughly two million students, 15% had visited a foreign country in connection with their studies, either sections of the courses themselves, practical training, internships or language courses.

The most popular countries for a study period were Spain, France and the UK, while favoured destinations for practical training or internships abroad were the US, the UK and France.

The survey also found that women were more mobile than men. Three-quarters of these mobile students were supported by their parents, more than half of them worked to save money for their stay abroad, either before the stay or afterwards, and 30% received government grants.

Whether students go abroad appears to depend strongly on their social background. Young people from well-earning families with good education levels tend to seek a stay abroad almost twice as often as students from households with poor education levels and low income.

"The selectivity of the German higher education system also has a marked effect on mobility," says DSW president Rolf Dobischat.

The number of students from abroad rose from 100,033 in 1997 to 245,522 in 2008, putting Germany third worldwide in terms of popularity after the US and the UK.

"Germany has continued to establish itself as an attractive studying location on the international education market," said Federal Education Minister Annette Schavan.

"This is especially important for an export nation. Those returning to their home countries after studying usually keep in close contact with Germany. At the same time, we have to give those who have graduated the opportunity to stay and contribute their knowledge."

Young people from developing countries, emerging economies and East European countries seem particularly keen to study in Germany. Most of them come from China, followed by Russia, Poland, Bulgaria and Turkey.