A German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) snapshot forecast survey carried out in December showed that the number of enrolled international students had reached 330,000, which is an increase from around 64,000 in the 2020/21 winter semester to 72,000-80,000 students in the 2021/22 winter semester.
The results are only a forecast since the survey received 158 responses from 270 higher education institutions that were questioned between the beginning and middle of December.
According to the survey, this increase in the number of enrolled students is a result of the “very rapid recovery” in non-degree students at most German higher education institutions, following a “significant slump” in the prior year.
The research also added that universities are recording significant increases in students seeking a master’s program.
The DAAD research also discovered that art and music universities and colleges report more increases than decreases in the number of degree-seeking international students while universities and applied sciences are the opposite.
The increase mostly comes more from the number of international students already enrolled in Germany and remained in the higher education system than from the number of newly enrolled students.
Other factors that contributed to the country’s popularity among international students were the lifting of the entry ban in June 2020, allowing international students to enter Germany and having no extra fees required.
The chair of the German Association for International Educational Exchange (DAIA), Martin Bickl, stated that “the massive dent Corona had put in our 2020/21 exchange numbers was merely temporary”. He also said that “the German HE sector’s resilience has surprised even the most optimistic observers.”
While retention rates seem strong, “exchange students [are] flocking back now that we’ve learned to live with the virus.” he added, clarifying that “this has certainly been helped by DAAD’s and individual universities’ financial relief bursaries for international students whose income had dried up.”
“Even if we treat these numbers with the caution they deserve – after all they’re only preliminary – the survey results suggest that Germany has managed the transition to a new normal rather well, with HEIs and government working in partnership to maintain conditions for international students under which they are able to study, thrive and enjoy themselves.”
While Turkey, Iran, India, Italy and France witnessed more newly enrolled students, numbers from China, Syria and Cameroon dropped. However, Germany is less dependent on China as a market for international students, unlike the US, UK, and Australia, which was emphasised by the head of the International Department at the German Rectors’ Conference in 2018, Marijke Wahlers.
This is further displayed by the 2021 Wissenschaft Weltoffen report released in autumn 2021, which showed that 12.9% of Germany’s international students originated from China in the winter semester of 2019/20.
Bickl continues in his statement to the PIE that “having a balanced student body from a multitude of source countries has certainly paid off for Germany as it has avoided dependence on particular countries in a time when the situation continues to be so volatile; across the globe.”
Diversity in the countries of origin of international students is “has ensured that the decline in Chinese students, for example, has been offset by other groups of students”, the DAAD spokesperson added.
As for the DAAD president, Joybrato Mukherjee, he said that “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.”
He further explained “The number of first-year students from abroad has also risen again after declines in the last winter semester. Increases of around 13% or more are much better than expected in the summer. These figures are a very good sign of the attractiveness of Germany as a place to study. “
It was previously stated by Jan Kercher, a senior researcher in data and studies on higher education internationalisation and international academic mobility at the DAAD, that Germany could take Australia’s position as the third most popular study destination.
In November 2021, he expressed how there seems to be no sign of student number decline, especially after Uni-Assist reported a similar number of international applicants for the 2021 winter semester as in 2020.
After the release of the research in December, Kercher described the 330,000 figure as “pleasing” and said that “at least 330,000 international students are more than one would have dared to hope for in the summer.”