As planned, the German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst – DAAD) has extended its support programme for Afghanistan. Recent selections under the special Afghan quota in the Hilde Domin Programme, and relating to the so-called bridge scholarships for refugee Afghan students and doctoral candidates, have now been completed.
‘Recent media reports from Afghanistan indicate that drastic restrictions continue to exist in public life there and in all areas of education, under which girls and women in particular are suffering. The few remaining bridges to the western world are therefore vitally important for young Afghans, and we see their funding and acceptance into the German higher education system as the obvious continuation of two decades of commitment to the Afghan higher education sector. Especially since we had to end the support for our partner higher education institutions in the country, given the recent takeover by the Taliban,’ said DAAD president Professor Joybrato Mukherjee. ‘We see huge academic potential among the recently selected candidates, and are seeking to use our targeted funding to bring it to fruition. At the same time, however, we must recognise that the need for academic protection programmes far exceeds our capabilities.’
Both of these special programmes should enable Afghan students and doctoral candidates to begin, or to continue their academic development in Germany. The special quota in the Hilde Domin programme meant that 26 young Afghans were awarded a full scholarship for a bachelor’s or master´s degree course, or for a PhD in Germany. The majority of the selected applicants are still living in Afghanistan, so the DAAD will support them to the best of its abilities in applying for an exit visa. In preparation for their studies, the scholarship holders will initially attend a language course in Germany before commencing their studies at a German higher education institution in the winter semester 2022/23.
The Afghan bridge scholarships saw 59 Afghans being selected, the majority of whom are already living in Germany. They are receiving financial assistance for a period of six months to help them with their reorientation in Germany.
The rising need for protection programmes
A DAAD appraisal suggests that the global need for academic safe havens has increased significantly in recent years. The number of students at risk nominated under the Hilde Domin programme tripled within a year, for example. The DAAD received almost another 450 nominations for the programme just in the period from the beginning of January 2022 to mid-March, around 350 of them from Afghanistan. ‘There is a rising need for academic protection programmes in a world that is increasingly marked by crises and conflicts. We are continuing to record very high demand from Afghanistan after the takeover by the Taliban, yet the Hilde Domin programme is also extremely important to students and doctoral candidates from other countries who are equally at risk’, Joybrato Mukherjee continues. ‘Even given the federal government’s difficult financial situation, we believe that the tried and tested protection programmes run by the DAAD and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation should be expanded.’
The Hilde Domin-Programme
The DAAD uses its Hilde Domin Programme to fund threatened students and doctoral candidates. A full scholarship under this programme enables them to commence or to continue their studies or doctorate in a safe environment at a German higher education institution.
Around 85 scholarships at bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral level were awarded by the end of 2021 in the first programme year alone. Another 26 one-off scholarships for candidates from Afghanistan were awarded in March 2022. The latest version of the long-term plan envisages 50 new awards per year for candidates from around the world.