The digitalisation of Germany’s higher education institutions has been significantly enhanced during the COVID-19 pandemic. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) is supporting these developments with information and support services for international students, researchers and higher education institutions.
'When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, our member higher education institutions made a huge effort to switch over rapidly to digital teaching and research. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all higher education institutions for their efforts in this regard. At the DAAD, we have supported the digital expansion of internationalisation through targeted funding programmes. We have also upgraded the information and services we offer to international students, researchers and our member higher education institutions,' said DAAD President Professor Joybrato Mukherjee. 'At the end of this challenging year, it is clear that there has been a sharp rise in interest in and uptake of digital information services about study and research visits to Germany. Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe that the wider perception of Germany as a place to study and research has benefited from the 2020 digital academic year.'
Focus on Digital Services
In 2020, the DAAD recorded increasing rates of accessing digital services and events and quickly expanded particularly in-demand services such as virtual study fairs. 5,000 young people took part in one fair for potential students from South America, with a further 2,000 participating in a fair for potential students from South and Eastern Europe. Information services on research in Germany also benefited from growing international interest. Some 2,200 people took part in a virtual fair for early-career researchers under the Research in Germany initiative, which was held in July. And over 4,500 people registered for the How to Apply for a PhD in Germany online course. Even in the midst of the pandemic, Germany's higher education institutions were able to create digital presences in a wide range of target countries. They participated in around 130 DAAD presentations in 20 countries, an increase of 50% over 2019. A further 175 events in 25 countries have already been planned for the first half of 2021.
Demand for information platforms
In times of global travel restrictions, the digital platforms operated by the DAAD were of key importance in providing information to and recruiting foreign students and researchers. My GUIDE, the orientation portal for international talent intending to study in Germany was a success right from the start. Since its launch at the beginning of the year, with over 120,000 people interested in studying in Germany accessing the portal, 12,500 registering online and 2,700 sending a detailed contact request to a German university. Even under COVID-19, interest among German students about studying abroad was strong, so the DAAD continued its 'Studieren Weltweit' campaign encouraging them to experience studying around the globe. A total of 49 student 'correspondents' wrote reports online and on social media about their visits abroad this year, with 31 correspondents submitting reports during the pandemic.
Virtual GAIN: More participants, lower CO₂
COVID-19 also meant that the 20th German Academic International Network (GAIN) annual conference and talent fair, originally planned to take place in Boston on August 28 and 29, had to be moved into the digital sphere. A record number of attendees were able to register for Virtual GAIN. Around 750 German early-career academics working in America, international academics and senior German representatives from academia, politics and business gathered via the virtual conference platform, all with the added benefit that no air travel meant a huge reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. GAIN is a collaboration between the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the German Research Foundation (DFG).