The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has today published its Annual Report for 2020. DAAD President Professor Joybrato Mukherjee used the occasion of its presentation at a federal press conference to stress the importance of international research cooperation and the need for academic exchange.
‘International cooperation and academic exchange are crucial in the Anthropocene in which we humans cause existential crises through our behaviour. Cross-border cooperation between academics is the only way we can succeed in answering questions of global survival’, expressed DAAD President Professor Joybrato Mukherjee. ‘In this last year, we have witnessed the significance of personal networks within academia. Establishing such resilient networks requires trust and, especially during the early stages of an academic career, also personal encounters. The DAAD’s programmes facilitate this trust and these encounters, even in the course of a global pandemic.’
Academic exchange is resilient
‘We at the DAAD found 2020 to be a very challenging year, yet academic exchange proved itself to be remarkably resilient during the pandemic’, added new DAAD Secretary General Dr Kai Sicks. The DAAD Annual Report records around 111,000 funded students, graduates and researchers, which equates to 76 per cent of the figure in the year before the pandemic. Very shortly after the outbreak of the pandemic, it succeeded in digitising all its business processes and many exchange formats to assure continued support of those receiving funding, as well as the German higher education institutions. Digitisation of scholarships was also rapidly achieved: as early as summer 2020 around a quarter of all international DAAD scholarship holders had taken advantage of the option to attend their scholarship course online and only subsequently to travel to their chosen host country.
A European view
During his public presentation of the Annual Report, the DAAD President also referenced the central importance of the Erasmus programme to European cohesion: ‘In its 33 years of consistent exchange, Erasmus has profoundly contributed to the foundation of common European values, mutual respect, familiarity and trust.’ This is of incalculable value in times of increasing crises and friction within the EU. The Erasmus programme also proves to be robust: In the international summer semester 2021, the number of Erasmus study visits abroad is already back at 75 percent compared to the summer semester 2019.
Ground-breaking funding programmes
The DAAD even launched new and ground-breaking funding programmes in 2020, despite the global lockdown and during various waves of the pandemic. ‘We made use of the ‘Leadership for Africa’ programme funded by the Federal Foreign Office to bring refugees from Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda to Germany to study for a master's degree. Eight newly selected “global centres” in Germany and countries of the Global South are now dedicated to promoting teaching and research into pandemic preparedness and combating the climate crisis. And with our “Hilde Domin Programme”, we have launched a protection initiative for threatened students and doctoral candidates’, Kai Sicks recounts.
International students and stays abroad
The number of international students in Germany was also influenced by the corona pandemic. The number of registered international students rose slightly during the pandemic. The DAAD reckons with an estimated 325,000 international students for winter semester 2020. This equates to an increase of around one per cent. Albeit preliminary surveys suggest that the winter semester saw just over 60,000 fewer international and first-year students; that is a decline of around 20 per cent.
Interest in stays abroad and academic exchange remains strong despite the corona pandemic. Applications for DAAD scholarships relating to winter semester 2021 indicate an increase in applicants, for master’s courses in particular. Internship programmes for Germans, such as ‘RISE Worldwide’ with destination countries of Canada, the USA, the UK and Spain, are also enjoying rising popularity.
DAAD’s budget and employees
The DAAD budget last year was at a level of around 550 million euros. Almost 1,100 staff in Bonn, Berlin and in nearly 70 international offices were dedicated to the promotion and preservation of academic exchange in 2020. Over 470 lecturers received DAAD funding for their deployment at international higher education institutions. Since 1950, the DAAD has therefore provided funding to support around 1.6 million individuals from Germany and over one million individuals from abroad.
The end of January 2021 also saw an end to the successful period in office of Dr Dorothea Rüland as Secretary General. The The Executive Committee in autumn 2020 confirmed Dr Kai Sicks as her successor. He assumed office as Secretary General on 1 April 2021.