International graduates find Germany attractive

New OECD study

A new OECD study reveals that our Federal Republic is one of the most attractive countries in the rankings for international students and graduates. The German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst – DAAD) sees this study as confirmation of the high quality in the higher education and academic policy landscape in Germany. Yet at the same time there is still development potential given the dropout rates among international students.

Students in lecture hall

‘The new OECD data provide valuable insight into the retention and employment of international students in Germany after graduation. They paint a very pleasing picture for our country: around 60 per cent of international students start their career in the Federal Republic after successfully graduating’, said DAAD President Professor Joybrato Mukherjee. ‘This puts Germany in a leading position in international comparison regarding its attractiveness to international students. These new data also reveal that international graduates now assume an above-average proportion of total skilled labour immigration.’

High proportion of skilled labour immigration

In 2019, international graduates represented almost a quarter (23 per cent) of all people with a residence permit who were gainfully employed or looking for a job in Germany. The latest figures from the OECD’s annually published ‘International Migration Outlook’ indicate that this proportion rose even further in 2020 to around 30 per cent. International graduates from domestic higher education institutions therefore account for almost a third of all skilled labour immigration. Only in Japan (37 per cent), Italy (46 per cent) and France (52 per cent) was the proportion of former international students even higher in 2019. By comparison: the proportion in the United Kingdom was 12 per cent.

More than half remain in the country

The OECD data also indicate that Germany is in a leading position when it comes to retention of international students in the country: they reveal that 54 per cent of students who started their studies in 2010 – and successfully graduated – were still in Germany five years later. It was in fact 63 per cent among students who started their studies in 2015. The retention rate after 10 years still stood at 45 per cent. The OECD analysis indicates that only in Canada did more international students decide to remain in the country after graduating. In some cases the retention rates were significantly lower in other countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, France, Switzerland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. 

Dropout rates among international students are falling

In addition to this very positive balance sheet, the data also reveal that the retention rates in Germany could be significantly higher if more international students were to successfully complete their studies. Currently around 45 per cent of international bachelor’s degree and 31 per cent of master´s degree students in a cohort drop out of their studies, a total of around 26,000 students each year. This is nearly twice as many compared to German students. The DAAD has set itself the objective of raising the academic success of international students to the same level as their German peers, and it is in contact with funding bodies and member institutions to achieve this. At the beginning of the year, and jointly with two partner institutions, it also published the practice-based research report ‘Accompanying international students in Germany to academic success: Results and recommendations from the SeSaBa project’.


DAAD - Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst - German Academic Exchange Service