20% of DAAD scholarships reserved for foreign students

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) is changing the structure of its scholarships to universities in East Africa, where the institutions will now have to start admitting a percentage of learners from across Sub-Saharan Africa, in a bid to boost student mobility and internationalisation of higher education.

The German higher education financier will implement the new measures first in Kenya and Uganda beginning with the current year’s 2019-20 intake, where universities in the two countries will reserve 20% of places allocated to them for foreign students, in a trial to be rolled out until 2022.

Under the In-country, In-region scholarship programme, the number of foreigners they will be required to admit rises to 30% in the 2020-21 intake, before rising to 40% in 2021-22, the final year of the trial period.

“Universities in Kenya and Uganda will be required to reserve 20% of places in the current intake for international students from within Africa beginning this year, with the number increasing by 10% each year until a ratio of 60 to 40 foreign students is achieved,” Anja Bengelstorff, programme officer at the DAAD regional office for Africa in Nairobi, told University World News-Africa in an interview.

Boosting mobility

“This plan will be in place over the current four-year period and is meant to boost student mobility and increase internationalisation of education,” she said.

The success of the initiative will be reviewed at the end of the four-year period, after which a decision will be made on whether to implement it in the future, she added.

Universities in the two countries that are participating in the initiative include Makerere University, the University of Nairobi, Moi University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Strathmore University and Kenyatta University, among others.

A total of 120 scholarships for both masters and doctoral studies are on offer in the wider eastern Africa region, including Ethiopia and Sudan, during the current intake, aimed at building teaching capacity in institutions of higher learning, she said.

Selected universities are picked based on set criteria, which, among other things, have included the legal status of a university, capacity to teach various programmes, and ability to accommodate learners with the least inconvenience, Bengelstorff said.

According to Bengelstorff, universities in Tanzania, the other major recipient of DAAD scholarships in the region, have been exempted from the rule, at least for now, after the country indicated its inability to host foreign students and sought an exemption, said Bengelstorff.

Overall, the scheme, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), hopes to boost staffing capacity in African universities, and beneficiary institutions are usually picked competitively, she said.

Also participating are some research networks and reputable research institutions such as the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi.

International exposure

According to Bonface Nyagah, a capacity building officer with the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF) in Nairobi, Kenyan and Ugandan institutions would in the long term gain from offering studies to non-citizens.

The universities, he said, will be exposing and showcasing their programmes to a wider audience, marketing them to wider communities beyond their borders by hosting foreign learners.

“Universities in the two countries will be the winners in the long term. They will have an opportunity to market themselves and their programmes internationally. It is not a bad thing at all,” Nyagah said.

He said universities should embrace student mobility and promote internationalisation of higher education, which rewards them by raising their own visibility.

Bilateral scholarship schemes

Besides multilateral higher education schemes like these DAAD scholarships, the government of Germany has bilateral scholarship schemes with governments in the region, all meant to build teaching and research capacity in universities, said Bengelstorff.

They include the Kenya-German Postgraduate Training Programme, where Kenya is allocated 30 places each year to send graduate students to German universities, and another programme with the government of Rwanda, which is allocated 20 places annually.

Under the arrangements, the African governments pay a percentage of tuition fees while Germany meets the balance.

Unfortunately, the schemes have yet to be fully exploited due to a number of factors including failure by applicants to get a supervisor in Germany and the low number of applications that meet the criteria set by German universities.