This is according to the Wissenschaft Weltoffen 2020, released by DAAD and the German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies, which also revealed that the number of students from MENA countries grew by 68% in the three years prior to 2019.
Students from the Asia Pacific made up around 30% of the international student body, followed by students from Western Europe (18.4%), North Africa and the Middle East (17.7%).
China and India remained the most popular source countries for international students, making up around 13% and 7% of the international cohort respectively.
Regionally, half of all international students study in just three Bundesländern: Nordrhein-Westfalen, Bayern und Baden-Württemberg. High proportions can also be seen in Berlin (17%), Sachsen (15%), Thüringen (14%) und Brandenburg (14%).
In terms of level of study, interest in masters courses has increased by 72% over five years, more than the 50% increase in interest in bachelors and 12% for PhDs.
While the report noted that the future trends around international students over the next few years can’t be estimated as they are dependent on the outcome of the pandemic, Germany appears relatively optimistic in its ability to remain an attractive destination.
DAAD asserts that interest in studying in Germany is still high, with applications to the uni-assist association for the 2020/21 winter semester running at 80% compared to the previous year.
“Survey data show that Germany has apparently been able to further improve its good reputation among international students thanks to good pandemic management during the first corona wave in spring and summer,” said DAAD president Joybrato Mukherjee.
“Germany has apparently been able to further improve its good reputation”
“This is a good starting point from which we can in future convince even more talented young people of the benefits of our education system and thus connect them to our country. All those involved should collectively grasp this opportunity.”
UCL Institute of Education research fellow Sazana Jayadeva noted her research suggests Indian student flows to Germany will be less impacted that those of the US and the UK in terms of deferring and rethinking study plans.
“There was a feeling that Germany was handling the pandemic well, the healthcare system was robust, and international students were being well supported,” she said, adding that the two major concerns of Germany-bound Indian postgrads were the job market and learning online.
At the same time, around 80,000 students temporarily departed Germany due to Covid-19, and some have reported significant difficulties in being able to return to the country, although changes in policy in early September have reduced some of the barriers.
“International students are allowed and welcome to enter Germany, even if they start their courses of study in Germany online at the moment and the ongoing winter semester,” DAAD spokesperson Michael Andreas Flacke told The PIE News.
“There are some challenges, we have heard, in some countries obtaining a visa, but most consulates seem to be open and working. Looking at German universities talking about their current incoming numbers of international students, we see a divided picture,” he continued.
“Large universities in big cities like the TUM in Munich or the universities in Berlin seem to welcome good numbers of international students arriving at the moment, smaller universities throughout the country are lacking them.”
Germany’s third largest source country for students, Syria, has seen student numbers soar by 275% in the last three years.
The 13,000 Syrians studying in Germany in 2019 accounted for 4% of international students. The vast majority are refugees.
Programs managed by DAAD have provided educational opportunities for thousands of refugees at German universities over the last four years.
While the refugee status of students is not recorded when they enter German universities – making it hard to give exact numbers – between 2016 and 2019 around 30,000 refugees took specialist language and professional courses to prepare for future studies.
Based on DAAD data, it is thought that there were around 22,000 refugee students studying for a degree in Germany in 2019.
With regards to German students studying abroad, in 2017 around 140,000 did so – double the number in 2000 – with 90% aiming for a degree. German-speaking Austria was the destination of choice for one in five outbound students, with the Netherlands taking a further 16%, the UK 11% and Switzerland 10%.
DAAD however stated that “Brexit may regrettably lead to a future decline in the numbers registering in the United Kingdom”.
This is a trend that is likely to be seen across Europe as EU students grapple with the loss of home fee status. A study earlier this year from Study.EU suggested that the move could leave as many as 84% of EU students looking for alternative countries to study in.