Germany Launches Ambitious Plan To Boost Foreign Student Numbers

A coalition agreement between Germany’s biggest political parties has been reached after three months of negotiations. The new government aims to increase international students studying in Germany to 350,000 by 2020 as well as increase outbound mobility to 50% of all higher education students by freezing taxes and lowering retirement age among other objectives.

“By the end of the decade we will see to it that the number of foreign students is increased by about a third, to about 350,000,” says the Government in a 185 page agreement between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD).

6% market share of all international students globally has resulted from a rise of mobility to Germany. A total increase from 140,000 international students in 1995-1996 to 280,000 in 2012-2013. The 350,000 student goal follows the projected growth of student mobility over the next seven years according to Stephen Geifes, Head of DAAD’s Division of Higher Education Projects abroad. According to The PIE News, The German Academic Exchange Service’s (DAAD) Strategy 2020 released in February of this year intends to increase inbound and outbound mobility in Germany’s higher education institutions.

“The number of international students is set to increase by 2020 and we want our market share of international students to remain stable, that is 6% of the estimated international students in 2020,” he said.

The networks already established by DAAD to maintain its place in the market are to be exploited by the coalition Government as it stated.

“It’s a policy mix of how to get more students to Germany. It’s a question of marketing, it’s a question of welcome structure, it’s a question of attractiveness, and language access,” said Geifes. “We will continue to increase the number of English taught courses as we have over the last 10 years because it’s more attractive to foreign students to come and to study directly in English and learn German on the side.”

Although marketing will be done globally, the main focus will mostly be on Master and graduate students in countries that don’t already have a large student population in Germany. To increase the number of German students enrolled at higher education institutions abroad, the Government will support DAAD’s efforts. At present, about one third of domestic students study abroad. By 2020, the government wants to see the proportion rise to one in every two students. The organization will focus on encouraging students to go for semesters, language courses and internships abroad as Geife puts it.

“We think it’s important to have a significant amount of students enrolled in higher education be internationally socialized,” he commented. “It will certainly be with an increase in short-term stays, but at least they will have been abroad, that’s what’s important.”

Geife said that to determine how DAAD’s current budget of €400 million will be augmented in order to reach the goals, further negotiations will be needed. In addition, he said that the new Erasmus + program will help expand outbound mobility.

“The most important point is that the government at least for the next four years subscribes to this view,” he said.

Boosting skills and employability, and modernizing education, training and youth work are the aims of Erasmus +. Additionally, opportunities for over 4 million Europeans to study, train, gain work experience and volunteer abroad will be provided by it as well as providing grants to individuals.