DAAD said Russia, Bulgaria and Poland were the next biggest cohorts but China led “by a clear margin” with more than 24,000 enrolments.
“Over the last few years, the largest proportion of foreign students has come from China. In 2011, the number of Chinese students matriculated at German university came to 22,828 – with the figure still rising,” said DAAD in a statement. “They have an above-average level of study success.”
Germany hopes to build overseas enrolments to 300,000 by 2020 and in May passed a bill extending work rights for international students as the UK, Europe’s number one study destination, reigned in its concessions.
Its universities are also offering more programmes taught in English (including more than 600 master’s programmes compared to 350 in France) and at lower prices than in the UK and Ireland. A German degree costs non-EU students at most €500 per semester and in some states nothing at all.
“European countries waive the tuition fee or charge a very low fee, and the language requirement is not as high”
Xuewen E, the executive vice president of China’s largest agency association, BOSSA, told The PIE News that the Chinese figures reflected the growing appeal of Europe as a study destination.
“A great number of Chinese students are choosing to go to Europe. Apart from the UK they may go to Spain and Italy that offer courses in English, which may explain why they would choose Germany as well,” he said.
“European countries also waive the tuition fee or charge a very low fee and the language requirement is not as high as in American universities. They only require a minimum language level and students get the chance to take local language training.”
He added that Europe’s visa policies, which were more open than those of countries such as the UK, also played a role.
Germany’s strong economy has added to its appeal abroad, prompting a surge in German language students from Southern Europe this year according to the Goethe Institute, Germany’s leading language promoter.
Germany is the fourth most popular study destination after the US, UK and Australia, according to OECD data
However, in a recent study on discrimination against international students in Europe’s top five study destinations Germany fared poorly, coming joint last with France. Students reported that difficulty learning German and a lack of clear information made it hard to find employment.
Xuewen E added: “Our member agencies are worried about the current economic situation in Europe, and hope this will not change their tuition policies on international student recruitment.”
According to DAAD Germany’s key overseas markets last year were Europe (141,500 students), Asia (72,300), Africa (21,500) and the Americas (15,300). Germany is the fourth most popular study destination after the US, UK and Australia, according to OECD data.