International students are the skilled workers of tomorrow

Skills shortage

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) is calling for more international students to be recruited as future professionals for the German labour market. In a position paper published today, it presents ten recommendations for joint action by politics, universities and business.

Stethoskop auf Tastatur

"In Germany, we have been heading towards an ever-increasing gap in skilled workers on the labour market for several years. At the same time, the Federal Republic is becoming increasingly popular as a place to study: we have been ranked 4th worldwide for several years and top the list among non-English speaking countries. We need to think about both developments together and show international students more effectively and in greater numbers the path to a professional career in Germany. They are highly qualified and well-integrated, and we should make more strategic use of their exciting potential as skilled workers in Germany. As the DAAD, we see politics, universities and industry as having a joint responsibility in this regard," said DAAD President Prof. Dr Joybrato Mukherjee. "At the same time, it is essential for us as an exchange organisation that we shape all activities to attract skilled workers according to the principles of fair migration."

Doubling by 2030

Around 75,000 international students currently begin their studies in Germany each year. Around half of them study STEM subjects (mathematics, information technology, natural sciences and technology), which are in particularly high demand on the labour market. Ten years after successfully completing their studies, around a third of them are still living and working in Germany: at the current number of first-year students, this equates to around 25,000. The DAAD believes that with determined and joint action by politics, universities and business, this number could double to around 50,000 by 2030.

Three central set screws

In order to achieve such an increase, political and structural obstacles for international students must be systematically dismantled. The DAAD therefore recommends that policymakers, higher education institutions and the business community focus on three central levers that will enable international graduates from German higher education institutions to be recruited even more systematically as talent for the labour market:

  1. The number of international first-year students must continue to grow: this requires more worldwide marketing for Germany as an excellent place to study, easier entry conditions, systematic study orientation already in the home country and a reform of university access in Germany.
  2. The success rate of international students must be increased: At present, their success rate is still significantly lower than that of German students. To improve this, support and supervision services for international students must be expanded at the universities and the universities must be better equipped financially for these tasks. In addition, the teaching of good German language skills is essential for success in the labour market.
  3. The integration of international students into the German labour market must be consistently promoted and must begin during their studies: This requires strengthening the cooperation between business and universities. The teaching of skills relevant to the labour market as well as practical phases and career counselling during studies are just as important as the expansion of integration structures and a welcoming culture in companies.

Support programmes and fair migration

In addition to the joint commitment of politics, universities and business, suitable funding programmes are needed to strengthen German universities as engines of skilled labour immigration. To this end, the DAAD has submitted a proposal to the Federal Government for a funding programme that specifically focuses on the qualification of international students and young academics as the skilled workers of tomorrow. 
When it comes to the issue of skilled workers, the DAAD also acknowledges its responsibility towards its partner countries in the Global South: the principles of fair migration, which takes into account the further development and benefits for both the young people and the countries of origin and host countries, form the basis of all its efforts to recruit skilled workers.


DAAD - Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst - German Academic Exchange Service