International mobility on the rise

Growing numbers of academics and students are coming to Germany while the mobility of German university lecturers appears to be on the rise.

A recent survey, Profildaten zur Internationalität deutscher Hochschulen, on the internationality of German universities states that in mid-2014, around 31,000 collaborative programmes were being run between nearly 300 institutions in Germany with about 5,000 higher education partners in 150 other countries.

More than half these programmes involve exchange of students and higher education staff in the context of the European Union’s Erasmus programme.

The survey is one of a series first launched in 2008 and compiled annually by the German Academic Exchange Service, DAAD, in cooperation with the German Rectors’ Conference and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

It is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and is based on a breakdown of universities into large and small institutions and traditional universities and universities of applied science or fachhochschulen, art and music universities and universities of technology.

The survey collects data on the number of foreign students who are not residents and foreign academic staff on the campus, the mobility of students and teachers, and the number of international study programmes.

Individual institutions are also given indexes to relate them to comparable institutions, providing a tool to assess their international activities and a database for empirical comparisons and benchmarks.

Overall, universities of technology and music and art universities scored the best marks in the survey. The share of foreign academic and art staff at the music and art institutions was 16%, a 20 percentage point increase compared to 2006. At the universities of technology, foreign scientists accounted for 14% of academic staff, up by 16 percentage points.

The overall share of foreign first-year students saw an increase by 13%, to 16% of the total, with the largest number (29%) at the universities of technology. Technical subjects are particularly attractive to foreign students and academics but this also appears to apply to art and music universities, where foreigners account for up to 70% of students.

“Our universities are a gateway to the world, and they are invaluable in the development of our society,” says German Education Minister Johanna Wanka. “As a driver of international cooperation, they maintain international exchanges and mobility. And, in doing so, they are fostering cultural open-mindedness and inquisitiveness among students and teachers.”

Small universities and fachhochschulen scored relatively low values in the survey, one reason being that they find it more difficult to recruit students and academics. They can, however, boast a significant increase in terms of the international mobility of their teachers. The share of lecturers supported by the Erasmus Programme at small universities was at 32% (8% up on 2007).

The survey detected a stagnating trend in doctoral study among foreign students, which appears to have remained at a similar level since 2006. The figures are about 18% for universities of technology, and 14% and 15% respectively at small and large universities.

Michael Gardner Email