GERMANY: Foreign students need special support

The success rate of foreign students who go on to universities in Germany after attending school there is improving, but fewer of them complete higher education than German students and many are faced with problems that require special support, according to a new survey.

A growing number of foreign students hold a university entrance qualification that they have acquired in Germany. These foreigners who have completed schooling in Germany are called bildungsinländer, as opposed to the bildungsausländer who hold a school-leaving certificate from abroad.

According to the Datenreport Bildungsinländer, produced by the HIS higher education statistics agency for the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), there were 63,500 foreign students with a German Abitur (university entrance qualification) in 2009-10. The total number of students in Germany was just over two million, with 11.5% from abroad.

Statistics show that the number of foreign students with entrance qualifications acquired in Germany is set to grow.

Germany has seen high levels of immigration in the past, especially from Turkey, and well over a quarter of these bildungsinländer have Turkish roots. Other important countries they or their parents or grandparents come from include Croatia, Italy, Greece, Russia, Poland, Austria and Vietnam.

Around 38% opt for studying at a fachhochschule or university of applied science, compared to 32% of German school leavers. Their favoured subjects are informatics and engineering, while law, economics and social sciences are preferred at the traditional universities. Teaching rates relatively low as a university subject.

But the bildungsinländer are confronted with a number of difficulties in everyday life.

"There are still too many language deficits among many of them," said Simone Burkhart, who heads the evaluation and statistics department at DAAD. Money often causes problems and, according to Ulrich Heublein of HIS, "no other group of students has to work regularly to cover costs so frequently".

In 2002-05, 59% of the bildungsinländer graduated from higher education, compared to around three-quarters of German students. However, they showed a significantly better success rate than students with a foreign school-leaving certificate, only half of whom obtained a degree.

University success has been growing considerably among foreigners for some time. Simone Burkhart believes that this is due to various support measures that institutions are offering, and she expects improvements to continue.

"With our PROFIN programme, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, we are actively promoting the integration of foreign students at German higher education institutions," Burkhart said.

PROFIN (programme to support foreign students) was launched last year and incorporates a range of measures that are also aimed at boosting the international dimension of higher education in Germany.