More international students and first-semester students in Germany - despite the pandemic

DAAD Survey Winter Semester 2021/2022

The number of international students at German universities has risen again in the current winter semester. According to a snapshot survey by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), at least 330,000 international students are currently enrolled at German universities. The number of international first-semester students has also grown again despite the COVID-19 pandemic and, according to DAAD projections, is at least 72,000. Almost 160 universities from all over Germany took part in the survey. 

International Studierende auf einem Campus

“The survey of our member universities allows us to look forward to the new year with hope: despite the pandemic, the number of international students in Germany continues to increase," said DAAD President Prof. Dr. Joybrato Mukherjee. “The number of first-year students from abroad has also risen again after declines in the last winter semester. Increases of around 13 percent or more are much better than expected in the summer. These figures are a very good sign for the attractiveness of Germany as a place to study. They also show that the joint commitment of member universities and the DAAD to attracting and supporting international students is paying off, especially during the worst pandemic in 100 years.”

70 per cent of universities report stable or rising numbers

According to the DAAD's extrapolation based on the survey, 31 per cent of the higher education institutions saw increases of at least five or more percent in the number of international students enrolled. 40 percent of the universities reported stable numbers. At 18 percent, there was a significant decrease, and at eleven percent, a slight decrease. Based on the feedback from the universities, the DAAD forecasts 330,000 to 350,000 international students for the current winter semester. Compared to the previous winter semester, this would be an increase of two to eight percent. 

More first-year students from abroad

In line with this positive development, the number of international first-year students also increased. According to the DAAD forecast, it grew significantly from around 64,000 (2020/2021 winter semester) to between 72,000 and 80,000, which corresponds to an increase of 13 to 26 percent. By comparison, a decline of 19 percent was recorded in the previous year. The main reason for this significant growth was the rapid recovery in the number of non-degree guest and exchange students, which had slumped significantly in the previous year. Now, just under half of the universities surveyed report rising numbers in this group, and 40 percent even report strong increases (of over ten percent). 

International students on site again

Despite the ongoing pandemic, the survey shows a clear return of international students to campus: around 80 percent of the surveyed universities estimate that at least three quarters of international first-year students are now in Germany. 63 percent even assume a presence of 90 to 100 percent. Only seven percent of the universities assume that less than half of the international students are already present. Teaching currently takes place as a mixture of in-person and digital distance learning: around 80 percent of the universities surveyed indicated this kind of hybrid teaching mode.

DAAD Snapshot Survey for the winter semester

The DAAD surveyed around 270 higher education institutions between early and mid-December and received 158 responses. Around 65 per cent of all international students in Germany are enrolled at the surveyed universities. On the basis of the responses, the DAAD made an extrapolation for all German higher education institutions.


DAAD - Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst - German Academic Exchange Service