German HEIs more internationally popular than ever

Wissenschaft weltoffen 2022

Even after two years of the corona pandemic, the Federal Republic is one of the world’s most popular countries for international students. The German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst – DAAD) announced today that around 350,000 of them were registered at German universities in the winter semester 2021/22. This figure is a new record, and represents a growth of eight per cent compared to the previous year. After declines due to the coronavirus, the number of international first-year students even rose in the previous winter semester, to almost 74,000.

Internationale DAAD-Stipendiatinnen und Stipendiaten beim Treffen in München

“Germany's universities and research institutions have an excellent reputation and great appeal worldwide. The fourth place directly behind the classic host countries USA, United Kingdom and Australia is very pleasing and at the same time an incentive for the future. International students represent an enormous potential of skilled workers, which we should exploit even better in the future. It also shows that Germany has come through the Corona period comparatively well in terms of the number of international students,” said Federal Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger.

“The global mobility flows of international students altered during the coronavirus pandemic. Over the past two years, Germany has managed to maintain its good reputation among students and doctoral candidates around the world, and is now harvesting the fruits of its ongoing efforts to ensure quality and provide care for international students at the higher education institutions in our country. This also represents a huge opportunity for discussion regarding our domestic shortage of skilled labour, and all those concerned should unite in exploiting this opportunity,” said DAAD President Professor Joybrato Mukherjee. 

More international students than ever

Around 350,000 international students are attending a German higher education institution in winter semester 2021/2022. Compared to last year, this number has risen by around 25,000 students which equates to eight per cent, as the DAAD and the German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (Deutsche Zentrum für Hochschul- und Wissenschaftsforschung – DZHW) announced in the publication ‘Wissenschaft weltoffen 2022’ released today. “The number of international students has increased by a total of 89 per cent since the winter semester of 2010/11. They appear to be increasingly interested in subjects related to engineering, mathematics and the natural sciences. Last winter semester, it was 53 per cent of international students who registered in one of these study programmes,” said Professor Monika Jungbauer-Gans, Scientific Director of the DZHW.

Students from China, India and Syria are prominent

The top five countries of origin for international students last year were China with some 40,000 students, followed by India (34,000), Syria (16,500), Austria (14,500) and Turkey (12,500). Differing developments were evident with respect to the two major countries, China and India: while the number of Indian students increased by 18 per cent over the course of a year, and the number of Indian first-year students by as much as 33 per cent, the number of Chinese students stagnated. There was a decline of five per cent in the number of first-year students from China. India will soon replace China as the major country of origin for international students in Germany if these trends were to continue.

The last survey revealed that the distribution of international students across universities and universities of applied sciences (UAS) was respectively 70 versus 30 per cent: around 228,000 people pursued their studies at a university and almost 96,000 at a UAS. This means that the number of international students attending a UAS has more than doubled in the last ten years (an increase of 127 per cent).

Comeback after the coronavirus

The number of international first-year students revealed a gratifying development, roughly inverse to the collapses induced by the coronavirus: the countries in which the coronavirus caused the largest declines – especially America – now showed the greatest recoveries. The increases were correspondingly lower in regions with few or almost no declines due to the coronavirus, such as countries on the African continent. These changes amongst international first-year students are therefore distributed across the regions of origin as follows: European Union +26 per cent, America +41 per cent, Asia +7 per cent, Africa +1 per cent.

German students abroad

German students also continue to be internationally mobile: the latest survey suggests that around 138,000 of them are studying abroad, so the number has been at a similar level for about five years. The overall number of those studying abroad has quadrupled since 1991 and more than doubled since 2000. Countries that remain especially popular for studies abroad are Austria (30,000), the Netherlands (22,000) and the United Kingdom (14,000), although here given Brexit there was a decline of over ten per cent compared to 2016.

In 2020, the first year of the coronavirus, there was a varied and sometimes surprisingly positive development in the number of German students abroad depending on the host country: significant increases were evident in Austria (+9 per cent), the Netherlands (+7 per cent) and Switzerland (+5 per cent), whereas the numbers markedly declined in the United Kingdom (-7 per cent) and particularly in the USA (-42 per cent).


DAAD - Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst - German Academic Exchange Service