More international students, fewer international first-year students

DAAD Survey, 2020/2021 Winter semester

The number of international students at German higher education institutions continued to rise in the current winter semester. According to a snap survey by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), 330,000 international students are currently enrolled. In spite of COVID-19, the number of international first-year students fell by only about 1%, and stands at around 78,000, according to DAAD projections.

International students on a campus

'The survey of our member higher education institutions has delivered a surprising result. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, more international students are enrolled now than in the previous winter semester,' said DAAD President Professor Joybrato Mukherjee. 'The number of first-year students may have fallen, but the drop of 1% is much less alarming than we expected in the summer. These figures are an excellent indicator of Germany's attractiveness for international students. They also show digitalisation has allowed Germany's higher education institutions to make strong gains in the COVID-19 academic year.'

17% more international students
DAAD projections based on the survey indicate that there was no change in the number of international students at 38% of universities, with 16% even showing increased numbers. There were significant decreases at 27% of higher education institutions and slight decreases at 19% of institutions. 

The projections showed a marked decline in the number of newly enrolled visiting or exchange students not intending to complete their degree in Germany, whose numbers fell from 22,000 to 10,000, down 53%. Nevertheless, the number of international first-year students intending to complete their degrees in Germany rose significantly from 57,000 to over 67,000, up 17%. In comparison, the increase last year was 3%.

Many international students are here in person 
The survey of student presence on campus yielded a surprise. Nearly 40% of the higher education institutions surveyed estimated that almost all international first-year students (between 90 and 100%) are now on-site, even though their studies are happening online. Only 15% of higher education institutions report that less than half of international students are present on-site. 

With regard to the higher education institution cluster, the major universities had to accept slight reductions in overall numbers of international students, they also recorded the largest increase in new enrolments of international students intending to complete their degrees in Germany (+28%). Colleges of art and music recorded the largest increases in enrolments of international students, now with around 25% more international students registered.

DAAD Winter Semester Snap Survey 
The DAAD sent surveys to the 270 members of the German Rectors' Conference (HRK) from early to mid December, receiving 160 responses. The higher education institutions which responded to the survey account for around 60% of all international students in Germany. The DAAD used these responses as the basis for projections for all German higher education institutions.


DAAD - Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst - German Academic Exchange Service