Academic Exchange in Times of War and Crisis

DAAD Annual Report

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) is the world’s largest exchange support organisation for students, researchers and teachers. Today the DAAD presented its annual report for 2021 in Berlin and considered the current year. According to the DAAD 2021 heralded a return to normality for academic mobility after Covid-19, although at the same time there was a significant increase in the influence of geopolitics on academic exchange.

DAAD-Jahresbericht 2021

‘We are currently experiencing rapid changes in the political and regulatory environment for global academic exchange. Dramatic geopolitical upheavals are having an impact on academia, especially the war in Ukraine. At the same time, the challenges faced by all of humanity, such as climate change and its drastic consequences, increasing shortages of raw materials and the issue of global food security have not gone away and remain urgent,’ said DAAD Prof. Dr Joybrato Mukherjee at the presentation of the Annual Report in Berlin. Germany would have to develop its foreign academic policy to meet these challenges, Prof. Mukherjee said. He pointed to the DAAD's call at the end of last year for a pragmatic approach to foreign academic policy, one that is based on values, led by common interests, structured around partnerships, integrated into Europe and should be geopolitically sensitive. Prof. Mukherjee pledged that the DAAD would contribute to a development of this kind.

Afghanistan and Ukraine: issues that left their mark

Prof. Mukherjee described how crisis management had profoundly shaped the work of the DAAD over the past year, particularly with regard to Afghanistan. He added that the protection programmes such as the ‘Hilde Domin Programme’ had been expanded for at-risk Afghan academics. Ukraine was currently the focus of the DAAD’s work, said Prof. Mukherjee, who acknowledged that ‘Since 24 February we have had to face the reality of a war of aggression in Europe, and we have acted swiftly to get support for Ukrainian students and researchers off the ground. We support the sanctions against and isolation of the Russian state from academia, but we will also stand up for open-minded higher education institutions where no-one faces discrimination due to their nationality or origins.’ The DAAD had set up a National Academic Contact Centre Ukraine for refugee students and academics, he said, adding that the DAAD was also anticipating that the Federal Government would provide adequate financial support for further elements of a support programme for Ukraine.  

Normalising academic mobility after Covid

‘The rebound in international academic mobility also left its mark on 2021. With regard to Germany as a study location, we were pleased to note that the number of international students continued to grow in both years of the pandemic, currently standing at around 325,000. Germany therefore remains very popular as a study location, ranked fourth in the world behind the US, the UK and Australia. The great efforts of our member higher education institutions and student associations have made decisive contributions to these strong numbers, as has a well thought-out set of policies for international students coming to Germany during the pandemic. We expect this growth to continue in 2022,’ said the DAAD President, who added that he anticipated there would be between 330,000 and 350,000 international students at German higher education institutions this year.

Clear growth for DAAD funding

‘Last year also marked the return of academic mobility for the DAAD’s programmes and the Erasmus programme,’ added DAAD Secretary General Dr Kai Sicks. ‘The number of all recipients of DAAD funding rose again in 2021 to around 135,000 individuals. This represents a very welcome 22 per cent increase following the downturn during the pandemic year of 2020. We are also seeing substantial increases in virtual exchanges, with around 30,000 people participating in online formats with DAAD project funding.’ 

Dr Sicks expressed his particular satisfaction at the increase in funding recipients from abroad. In 2021 the DAAD helped around 75,000 international students and researchers to undertake academic stays in Germany, an increase of 52 per cent compared to the previous year. 
Around 34,000 German students received funding for a stay abroad through the EU’s Erasmus+ programme in 2021, which marks a return to around 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. ‘Looking at Erasmus applications for 2022, we are already 20 per cent above the 2019 level; demand for stays abroad in the EU remains high,’ Sicks went on.

Expanding the DAAD Network and adding new programmes

The DAAD's network of Regional Offices also continued to grow during 2021. ‘We were able to hold opening ceremonies for new offices in Colombia and Jordan,’ said Dr Sicks, who stressed the role of Regional Offices as hubs for exchange between Germany and the higher education and scientific systems in the two countries. He also noted the increasing significance of the Regional Offices as reliable sources of information with considerable regional expertise, particularly during times of crisis. 

During 2021 the DAAD also set up or expanded programmes on key issues such as the climate crisis and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Two additional DAAD Centres of Excellence specialising in resource management and food security are contributing to boosting funding for the modernisation of higher education in Africa. The ‘German Colonial Rule’ research scholarship programme also got underway in 2021, and through it the DAAD is supporting the re-evaluation of oppression and exploitation during Germany's colonial history.

 Staff, budget and alumni

During 2021 around 1,150 people were employed at the DAAD's headquarters in Bonn, the Berlin Government Liaison Office and around the world. It had a total budget of just under 635 million euros. Since 1950 the DAAD has funded over 1.6 million people from Germany and around 1.1 million people from abroad to undertake academic stays abroad.


DAAD - Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst - German Academic Exchange Service