Academic exchange in times of COVID-19

DAAD reports a growing number of applicants

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has recorded a strong increase in the number of applications received for many scholarship programmes for next year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Brexit or restrictions for travelling to the US. Western Europe and North America are very popular among German students, while more than 5,000 international students applied for a DAAD scholarship for a master's degree in Germany. 

International Studierende auf einem Campus

‘The current situation due to COVID-19 gives rise to a paradox: The pandemic strongly restricts international academic exchange, while at the same time there is a massive increase in interest to perform a stay in Germany or abroad,’ says DAAD President Prof Dr Joybrato Mukherjee. He points out that this welcome trend highlights two developments. ‘On the one hand, German students do not let the coronavirus, or political developments in the world, dissuade them from wanting to gain cultural experience and to engage in exchange with other students. On the other hand, it shows that Germany’s reputation as an academic location has improved further,’ Mukherjee continues.

A preliminary analysis of application figures for 2021 shows: Compared to the year before, the number of German students who have applied for scholarships in Western Europe and North America has increased by around 60%. Scholarships for master’s programmes are especially popular: The number of applicants rose by more than 70% to around 1,400. Students are particularly interested in the United Kingdom (342 applications; +38%), the USA (193 applications; +116%) and Sweden (135 applications; +59%). The number of German doctoral candidates wishing to spend time abroad has also increased. By the end of October, the DAAD had received around 190 applications (+30%) with the USA, France and the United Kingdom as the top 3 destinations.

More than 5,000 international students have applied for a scholarship for a master's programme in Germany, which corresponds to an increase by just under 20%. Russia, Azerbaijan and the USA are the countries from which the greatest number of applications arrived for this programme that is advertised mostly in industrial countries. Scholarships for entire doctorates in Germany also continue to be sought-after by international doctoral candidates. The DAAD offers this opportunity for applicants from developing and emerging nations only. Around 1,500 young researchers had applied by mid-November. The most represented country in this context is India (207 applications): Interest from junior researchers from the subcontinent increased by more than 30% compared to 2019.

However, growing interest in DAAD scholarships could also be recorded from other countries, such as South Korea, Indonesia and Australia.

Areas in which applicant figures remained unchanged or decreased slightly, include binational doctorates and applications from Germany for the DAAD’s artists programmes. Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the DAAD had to suspend a few popular and sought-after programmes, such as scholarships for university summer and winter courses in Germany, or scholarships for travel abroad for conferences and lectures. Planning provides for these programmes to be resumed in 2021. 

DAAD scholarships for German and international students, junior scientists and researchers continue to be open for applications on an ongoing basis. A full overview of the available DAAD scholarships is provided on the following websites: (scholarships abroad) and (scholarships in Germany). 

DAAD - Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst - German Academic Exchange Service