German Universities are Optimistic on the Return of International Students

12 May, 2021



​As per the latest survey by DAAD, the German universities are optimistic about internationalization even during the Corona pandemic. The universities in Germany are looking to the future with hope and pleased to have increased digital initiatives abroad during COVID. Positive effects are seen due to the expansion of digitalisation.

German Universities are Optimistic on the Return of International Students

Survey by DAAD

To measure the experiences of the second Corona semester and its effects on the internationalisation efforts of the universities, the DAAD conducted a survey. It was among the International Offices of German universities in the second half of February 2021. A large number of the questions were asked especially on the topic of "digitalisation and virtual cooperation".

The survey was conducted among the heads of the International Offices of the 268 HRK member universities. It was carried out by the DAAD from 15th to 26th of February 2021. A total of 171 universities completed the questionnaire in full which means the net response rate was 64%.

Findings of the Survey

  • Around half of the participating universities assume that their university’s internationalisation will be hardly disrupted by the pandemic. To a surprise, more than 20% of German universities believe that their international links will become even more important after COVID.
  • Almost three quarters expect that there will be a quick recovery in international student mobility after the end of the travel restrictions.
  • Around one third (32%) assume that Germany's attractiveness as a study abroad country for international students has increased as a result of the Corona pandemic compared to other important study abroad destinations, and only 9%  expect it to worsen.
  • Almost 62% of the participating German universities have not cancelled their study abroad and exchange programmes in winter 2021, while one third (33%) have discontinued only some specific programmes. 
  • 80% of German universities began the winter 2021 semester with a mixed model of programme delivery (a mix of face-to-face and online instruction) only 16% with purely virtual teaching. However, due to the development of the pandemic, only a good 41% of universities stuck to the mixed model until the end of the semester; the remaining 40% eventually opted for purely virtual teaching in the semester.
  •  26 per cent of the universities have entered into new cooperation agreements with universities abroad to deliver digital programmes to students. The focused countries for this were the USA, Canada and Finland.
  • Four in ten expect about the same level of interest in their German students for study abroad this summer, and a quarter thinks demand will increase.

COVID pandemic at German universities: General effects

The COVID 19 pandemic also had a serious impact on the range of courses and activities offered by German universities in the 2020/21 winter semester. 
  • Non-teaching events were cancelled at around 90% of the universities. 
  • Business trips within Germany were reduced to a minimum, with just under three quarters (72%) of the universities reporting cancellations here, although this is often also likely to be due to cancellations by the respective local organisers. 
  • Campus buildings and offices were closed at around 60% of the universities (64%).
  • Exchange programmes for university staff were cancelled (59%). 
  • Half of the universities postponed the start of the winter semester, mostly based on national regulations. 

German Visa issues for international students

Many students couldn’t get into Germany because of visa issues in the past year. Almost two thirds (63%) of the universities report that international students were unable to enter attend courses n person in the winter semester despite having been admitted because they did not receive a Student visa for Germany

According to the DAAD Survey, around 14,700 international regular students and around 2,300 guest and exchange students did not obtain a student visa to study in Germany in the winter semester 2020/21. According to the reports, the most affected students were students coming from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Nigeria and China.

COVID-19 pandemic at German universities: Measures

  • Since the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic, more than nine out of ten German universities have (at least partially) converted their teaching to online courses, provided their staff with virtual workstations, set up an information website on the topic, offered virtual counselling for students and converted other face-to-face events to online events.
  • Almost 74% which is equal to three-quarters switched at least partially from face-to-face to online exams,
  • A good two-thirds (67%) created a Corona contingency plan. 
  • An emergency fund was set up for students at every four out of ten universities.
  • Psychological counselling is provided for students with pandemic-related problems at every one in three universities.

The German universities are very committed to supporting international students locally within the framework of pandemic management. Every second German university, management and teaching staff are "strongly" or "very strongly" focused on the needs of international students.