The number of international students in the country now totals 321,569, making up 12% of the country’s student body, according to the latest annual Wissenschaft weltoffen, by DAAD and DZHW.
The number of Chinese international students has topped 30,000 for the first time, with India overtaking Russia as the second highest source country.
Looking just at the total number of Bildungsauslaender (foreign students who went to high school outside of Germany) there were 177,949 at universities in 2015, an increase of 10,815 from the year before.
“There are much more English taught master’s programmes in Germany, currently 984”
Much of this growth was seen at the postgraduate level, with the number of foreign master’s students increasing by 8,042, or 15%, from 2014, reaching 61,448 in 2015.
Bachelor degrees attracted fewer foreign students, but nevertheless increased international enrolment by 8% during the same time period, reaching a total of 47,577.
The popularity of master’s degrees over bachelor’s can be explained by the number of English-taught programmes, said Jan Kercher, senior researcher for external studies and statistics at DAAD, the German Academic Exchange Service.
“There are much more English taught master’s programmes in Germany, currently 984, than bachelor’s programmes, currently 192,” he told The PIE News.
At universities of applied sciences, the number of foreign students is lower than at other universities, 57,909. However, bachelor’s students made up a much higher share of foreign students at these institutions, accounting for 35,319, compared with 15,814 master’s students.
Looking just at foreign students who moved to the country for higher education study, the top country of origin was once again China.
The number of Chinese students coming to study in Germany topped 30,000 for the first time in 2015, reaching 30,259, or one in eight foreign students.
The true growth story however, was India, which overtook Russia as the second highest source country, with 11,655 students.
One of the reasons for this, said Kercher, is due to the good reputation of German HEIs, which was reinforced further due to the Excellence Initiative.
Set up by the German Ministry of Education and the German Research Foundation, the initiative, among other things, seeks to raise the international appeal of German universities, and strengthen international cooperation in research.
Low costs for studying and living expenses, even more English taught master’s programmes and good job opportunities for foreign graduates, are other pull factors for Indian students, explained Kercher.
Russia was a close third sending 11,534 students. Austria and France completed the top five sender countries, with 9,875 and 7,305 respectively.
Despite China and India sending the most students to Germany, regionally Europe still claims the highest proportion of students overall, with 44%.
Students from Asia make up 38% of the total number of international students, with South and East Asia accounting for 28% alone.
The report includes findings from a 2014 DAAD survey, which showed that over half of the 11,000 foreign student respondents said they would like to remain in Germany after their studies.
Over three quarters (76%) of students from Russia and 72% of Indian students said they would stay in Germany after completing their studies. However, 30% of Brazilian students said they would not remain in the country.
“The main reason for these differences is probably different assessments about attractive career options in their respective home countries, compared to the career options in Germany,” said Kercher.
“Also, there are strong economic relations between Germany and Russia as well as Germany and India, so it is probably very easy for graduates from these countries to find good jobs in international companies in Germany.”