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Germany: int’l students satisfied with choice of destination, but language barriers remain

The large majority of international students in Germany (83% ) would recommend the country as a study destination, with only 32% expressing some light reservations, according to a survey included a recent statistical guide published by DAAD.

Photo: AC Almelor/Unsplash

Just under half reported having "great difficulties" finding accommodation

But those students with lower German proficiency report integration problems, the guide noted.

Among other things, the attractiveness of studying in Germany depends on how well universities are able to address the needs of internationally mobile students and ensure the rates of success,” Dorothea Rüland, secretary-general of DAAD and Monika Jungbauer-Gans, scientific director of the DZHW, said in the paper.

“Attractiveness… depends on how well universities are able to address the needs of internationally mobile students”

“Not only is this the basis of high student satisfaction but also the foundation of a connection with Germany which goes beyond academic studies.”

The survey was carried out by the German National Association for Student Affairs in 2016 and included responses from 4,200 degree-seeking international students.

For 57% of the respondents, Germany was the country of choice, while for 20% it was the second and for the remaining 23% it wasn’t in the top two choices.

The proportion of those indicating Germany as a first choice has slightly declined from 61% in the previous survey.

The popularity of Germany as a study destination varied: students from Latin America (71%), Asia and Pacific (63%) and SubSaharan Africa (60%) preferred Germany as a host nation, while about half of students from North America and Western Europe had it as their top choice.

The other preferred destinations were the US, the UK and Canada, all English-speaking destinations with some high tuition fees.

This may indicate that for those who didn’t have Germany as their first choice, the country’s free HE may have tipped the balance, the report observed.

For managing director Gerrit Bruno Blöss, the motivation needs to include Germany’s HEIs high reputation.

“The winning combination is tuition-free education in a higher education system with a good reputation. German educators might be shy to admit how important the fee regime is, though,” he told The PIE.

“Free tuition for foreigners is not a popular concept with every German taxpayer, and the many benefits of it – for a world-leading export nation with an ageing population – are less explicitly visible.”

In fact, respondents cited high education and career expectations as the primary motivator for studying in Germany, especially expectations of good professional opportunities (83%), high quality of higher education (76%), internationally recognised degrees (74%) and the good reputation of German universities (71%).

Meanwhile, motivations varied slightly by region.

Quality of education, study opportunities and EMI seemed to be top of mind for students Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle East as well as Asia and Pacific.

Interest in Germany’s culture was particularly high among students from Latin America, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

On the less positive side, just under half reported having “great difficulties” finding accommodation, while 38% said they had problems financing their studies.

“German educators might be shy to admit how important the fee regime is”

A small minority said they had problems with visa or residence permit (19%), work permit or health insurance (16 and 11% respectively).

However, a “large number” reported integration problems. One third said they had difficulties communicating in German, establishing contacts with locals (30%) and the local students (28%).

The report also noted that problems with communication in German have increased, which, it hypothesised, could be a result of the increase in the number of English-taught programs that have encouraged international students with low German proficiency to study in Germany.

Meanwhile, students with higher German proficiency were unsurprisingly less likely to report such issues, even with regards to finding accommodation.

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