8% rise in international students puts Germany in top four

Germany can boast a record number of international students this year, ranking fourth next to the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. Numbers of international first-year students are on the increase again, too, following a drop during the coronavirus crisis.

According to the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), around 350,000 of Germany’s almost three million strong student population were international students last winter semester, representing an increase of 8%, or roughly 25,000 students from the previous year.

The figures are contained in the Wissenschaft weltoffen 2022 report, part of a series the DAAD publishes annually with the German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies or Deutsches Zentrum für Hochschul- und Wissenschaftsforschung (DZHW).

Huge potential

Federal Minister of Education and Research Bettina Stark-Watzinger maintains that in terms of international students, Germany has fared comparatively well during the coronavirus crisis. Stark-Watzinger also emphasises that international students represent a huge potential for attracting highly qualified labour, and recommends that this be made even better use of in future.

DAAD President Joybrato Mukherjee agrees and has urged all stakeholders to take advantage of the opportunities arising.

“During the corona[virus] pandemic, there have been changes in the mobility flows of international students worldwide,” Mukherjee said. “Here, Germany has been able to maintain its good reputation among students and postdocs throughout the world and is now reaping the fruits of its constant efforts to provide quality and support for international students at our universities.”

“Overall, the number of international students has increased by 89% compared to the 2010-11 winter semester,” said Monika Jungbauer-Gans, academic director at DZHW. “Engineering and mathematics and natural sciences are attracting more and more interest, with 53% of the international students having enrolled for a subject in these fields last winter semester.”

First-year numbers

Numbers of international first-year students have grown again, too. Here, the overall trend is that those countries that showed the strongest decline in numbers as coronavirus set in, such as in Europe and America, are now experiencing the largest growth.

In terms of traditional universities versus universities of applied science in Germany, Wissenschaft weltoffen 2022 refers to a ratio of roughly 70% to 30%, with around 228,000 individuals studying at traditional institutions and 96,000 at what used to be the ‘Fachhochschulen’. At the latter, the number of international students has more than doubled.

The five leading countries of origin for the last winter semester are China, at around 40,000 students, India at 34,000, Syria at 16,500, Austria at 14,500 and Turkey at 12,500. In the course of one year, the number of Indian students grew by 18%, and Indian first-year students by 33%, whereas the number of Chinese students appears to be stagnating, with first-year student numbers falling by 5%.

If these trends continue, India could soon be overtaking China as the most important country of origin.

German students abroad

The number of German students abroad has remained at a relatively constant level over the last five years, and the new survey puts it at around 138,000. Overall, it points out, figures have grown more than fourfold since 1991, and more than doubled since 2000.

The top countries here are Austria, at 30,000 German students, the Netherlands at 22,000 and the United Kingdom at 14,000, although the latter has experienced a drop of more than 10% since 2016 owing to Brexit.

Developments during the coronavirus crisis showed considerable differences depending on countries, with significant increases in numbers of 9% in Austria, 7% in the Netherlands and 5% in Switzerland, whereas the corresponding figures for the UK and the United States were -7% and -42% respectively, with figures relating to levels before the pandemic set in.