Why Germany is a great place for international students

Has Germany become the new hot spot for international students? The country is gaining in popularity among international students who wish to pursue their studies abroad. Indeed, despite the health crisis, international mobility is on the rise again. International students are even keener to move, and more and more of them are choosing Germany. What’s is driving them there and what are the benefits of studying in Germany?

Germany is attracting more and more international students

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the German Centre for University and Scientific Research (DZHW) recently published their report called “Open Science 2022”. The resulting statistics are pretty clear. Germany is one of the most popular destinations for international students. It was already the case before COVID, but it is gaining ground, following suit to the USA, the UK and Australia. During the 2021-2022 period, German universities welcomed 350,000 international students. This is an 8% rise compared to the previous year. Monika Jungbauer-Gans, scientific director of the DZHW, notes that there has been a steady increase in the number of international students since the years 2010-2011. Students are coming back despite a broken growth curve resulting from successive lockdowns throughout the COVID pandemic. Almost 70% of them are studying in a university, while the rest are taking Applied Sciences (HAW) courses. The HAWs are on a high: in 10 years, the number of international students studying applied sciences in German institutions has risen by 127%.

International students in Germany mostly come from China (about 40,000 students), India (34,000), Syria (16,500), Austria (14,500) and Turkey (12,500). The Erasmus program, which celebrated its 35th anniversary last June, is also in great demand among young Europeans. Joybrato Mukherjee, President of the DAAD, is pleased with these promising results and their significance as a means to enable people from different backgrounds to meet, share and learn from each other. For Mukherjee:

“Germany is reaping the rewards of its continuous efforts to ensure the quality of stays and to provide support for international students”.

This sentiment is also shared by Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger, who sees it as “an encouragement for the future”.

Why study in Germany?

Here is an overview of some key benefits of studying in Germany.

Low cost of studies

Despite inflation, the cost of studying in Germany remains relatively low compared to other developed countries. Public universities are either free of charge or are accessible for a small fee that lies between €100 and €500 per semester. For international students, application fees and other administrative costs are generally low. Furthermore, the student card, “Semesterticket”, also allows free use of the local and the regional transport system. This is one of the reasons why studying in Germany is so popular.

Renowned and internationally recognized universities

This advantage derives directly from the abovementioned one. In fact, the competitive cost of education does not mean a reduced quality of education but rather the opposite. In Germany, university programs are known for their high standards and international reputation. Five German universities are ranked in the QS World University Ranking 2023 and are, in addition, free of charge. They are the Technical University of Munich (TUM), Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the University of Heidelberg, the Humboldt University of Berlin and the Free University of Berlin. TUM is among those universities with the highest number of international students (almost 40%). It is also a business and technology-oriented university, namely in medicine and social sciences, amongst others, which of, course, has led to greater international recognition.

An ”à la carte” course system

Germany recognizes the European Bachelor’s-Master’s-Doctorate system. This is a great opportunity for all European students, as it makes it possible to start a Bachelor’s degree in Spain or Belgium and to continue with a Master’s degree and/or a doctorate in Germany. Unlike France, which requires students to follow the subjects in a particular course, German institutions operate on an “à la carte” basis. Studies levels are expressed in semesters and not in years. This flexibility enables students to include periods of internship or work experience during their studies. This practice is quite widespread in Germany. These periods of professional immersion are indeed a good way of preparing for your career. To validate a semester, students must accumulate 30 ECTS (European Credits Transfer System) credits. They can then create their own timetable according to their course of study and their level. They are free to choose their courses from a list of compulsory and optional subjects provided by the university of their choice. They can also add courses of their liking to give them the best chance of completing their semester.

Great job opportunities

The economic giant needs no introduction. Germany is Europe’s leading country and a world-class player. The country is known for its stability, despite the health crisis. The strength of its industries has a radiating international impact, with brands such as Volkswagen, Daimler, Allianz, BMW, and Siemens. In 2020, these companies had record sales ranging from 50 to over 220 billion euros. Moreover, the most in-demand jobs in Germany this year are found in innovative sectors like robotics, agri-food, or space, aeronautics engineering, cloud, data analysis and data science, e-commerce, content management, health care, or software development (games, mobile applications, software). The strong connection between German universities and companies allows students to be permanently in touch with their next working environment. In German thinking, the university is never detached from the labor market; in fact, it is just the opposite. Thanks to ever-strong partnerships with the educational and the business worlds, internships and work placements are readily available, hence benefiting both students and companies.

Should everyone move to Germany, then?

Well, not so fast! The country is at the heart of Europe and definitely offers a lot of benefits to international students, but there are downsides as well. Non-European students often complain about the delays in visa issuance, which by itself does not affect the country’s good reputation. However, this year, the inflation rate in Germany has risen to 10.4%, which, of course, represents added pressure on student life there. Moreover, Bavaria recently decided to allow its universities to charge tuition fees to certain international students. But rest assured, we are not close to the end of free German education since the government keeps providing support for the students’ community.

German authorities firmly intend to maintain the country’s position as the most attractive education destination for international students. In that sense, the government is setting up new scholarship systems and is thinking further into the future. In the face of an acute labor shortage, Germany will do everything possible to keep the foreign talents who have been studying there. For the latter, Germany, therefore, represents the assurance of professional opportunities, which get even more secure with a good command of the German language. Even if some courses are available in English, universities insist on the importance of studying German, and it’s a good thing. Learning and speaking the country’s language is an essential component of successful integration and is always an advantage, both on the CV and in active life.

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