Number of Int’l Students at German Higher Education Institutions IncreasedDuring Winter Semester 2020/21, Despite Pandemic

Germany Europe COVID-19 by Erudera News Mar 15, 2021


More than 4,700 international students pursuing Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from 125 higher education institutions have been surveyed on a regular basis regarding their studies and living situation in Germany.

According to, the surveys have been conducted between the winter semester 2017/18 and the summer semester 2020.

The most recent snapshot survey of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has shown that there are more international students who choose to stay at the university instead of withdrawing.

Despite COVID-19 developments, a DAAD’s press release published in December 2020 notified that a total of 330,000 international students were enrolled for the 2020/2021 winter semester, whereas the number of international freshmen reached 78,000, decreasing by only around one percent.

DAAD President Joybrato Mukherjee said that the survey had revealed unexpected results, as despite pandemic, there were more international students enrolled at higher education institutions compared to the previous winter semester.

‘The number of first-year students may have fallen, but the drop of 1 percent is much less alarming than we expected in the summer. These figures are an excellent indicator of Germany’s attractiveness for international students,” Mukherjee said.

According to him, the results have, among others, shown that the higher education institutions in Germany have managed to maintain the number of international students due to digitalization.

Number of International Freshmen Wanting to Study in Germany Increased By 17%

During the 2020-2021 winter semester, the number of international students in their first year of studies at German universities rose by 17 percent, from 57,000 to more than 67,000.

“For comparison: In the previous year, the increase in the total number of newly enrolled degree-seeking students from abroad was only around three percent,” DAAD Snapshot Survey reads.

In addition, DAAD’s survey has also revealed that no change has been seen at 38 percent of universities in the number of international students. The rise in numbers has been seen at only 16 percent of institutions.

27 percent of higher education institutions have faced a huge decline in the number of international students, whereas small decreases were reported at 19 percent of institutions.

The number of newly enrolled visiting students or those part of exchange programs not planning to finish studies in Germany has dropped by 53 percent, from 22,000 to 10,000.

Majority of Students Present On-Site Despite Lectures Taking Place Online

When it comes to student presence on campus, around 40 percent of the higher education institutions which participated in the survey reported that between 90 and 100 percent of international students in their first year of studies are on-site, despite their studies taking place remotely.

15 percent of surveyed institutions notified that less than half of their international students are present on-site.

Nearly 25 percent more international students have been registered at colleges of art and music.

As of mid-December 2020, the DAAD survey was forwarded to 270 members of the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK), of whom 160 responded to the questions. These higher education institutions which responded to the survey questions represent a total of 60 percent of all international students in the country.

Western Europe Students More Likely to Discontinue Studies in Germany

In the most recent publication, “Science world open – Wissenschaft weltoffen 2020“, the withdrawal rates related to studies completed in Germany have shown that students from Western Europe are especially more likely to discontinue studies in Germany.

The latter could continue studies in their home country or another country if they consider that their study expectations have not been met at the previous university.

“As doing this means students rarely, if ever, have to accept a lower quality of studies or lose out in the job market. In bachelor’s programs, the withdrawal rate of international students increases by 4 percentage points. In master’s programs, it decreases by 3 percentage points,” the report reads.

Between 2008 and 2016, the number of international first-year students pursuing bachelor’s degrees has increased from 15,200 to 29,100 and from 11,400 to 35,600 in master programs.

During 2018, there were a total of 11,700 international graduates pursuing a bachelor’s degree, an increase from 2,600 in 2008. As per master’s degree, the number of international graduates increased from 5,700 to 24,800 during the same period.

According to the report, international students discontinuing bachelor studies exceed the number of German students withdrawing from a bachelor’s program.

“The withdrawal rate for first-year students in 2014 and 2015 was 49 percent. This represents an increase of four percentage points compared to the calculation for the 2016 graduate cohort.3 Among German students, this figure is 27 percent,” the same report further emphasizes.

The withdrawal rates of international students in bachelor’s and master’s programs by origin include:

  • Latin America – 55 percent
  • Asia (excluding East Asia) – 52 percent
  • Western Europe – 51 percent
  • Africa – 47 percent
  • Eastern Europe – 45 percent
  • East Asia 43 percent

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has also been funding the project “Success and withdrawal of international students in Germany” (SeSaBa) as part of the funding line “Study success and study drop-out I,” which focuses on the specific study situation of international students at German universities.

A spokesperson for the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) told that further research and analysis are on-going.

“The last survey (field phase between July and September 2020) of this longitudinal study will examine what role the COVID-19 pandemic played in the participants’ interruption, drop-out, and intention to drop out. Initial assessments of the SeSaBa study in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to be available by the end of July 2021,” the spokesperson said.

Whilst the “Study success and study drop-out II” projects will begin soon; their results will be available in 2023.

The BMBF will provide up to €500 per month until the end of the summer semester to students in Germany affected financially by the pandemic.

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