13 January 2015, No. 02/2015

German universities raising their international profiles

Press release of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research: study confirms growing international orientation and outward mobility - also among lecturers / Wanka: “Universities are a driving force behind exchange.”

More first-semester foreign students, increased numbers of scholars and researchers from other countries and growing mobility that takes German university professors abroad - universities in Germany are addresses for growing internationality. This unbroken trend is apparent in a current study by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the German Rectors’ Conference and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

As of mid-2014, the study counted some 31,000 international collaborations between nearly 300 German universities and approximately 5,000 university partners in 150 countries. A good half of these collaborations involved exchanges for students and university personnel in connection with the Europe-wide Erasmus programme, a level that clearly underscores its importance for collaboration in European research and academia. The study “Profile Data on the Internationality of German Universities” has been published annually since 2008 and is financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

“Our universities are gateways to the world, gateways that are invaluable for the development of our society. As a driving force behind international cooperation, universities ensure academic and scientific exchange and mobility. And, almost in passing, they impart to students as well as to lecturers openness to other cultures and curiosity about things unknown”, said Federal Minister of Education and Research Johanna Wanka.

The study classifies universities as large or small universities/universities of applied sciences, colleges of art or music, and technical universities, and analyses them in seven categories. Not only the number of foreign students and foreign personnel on a campus, but factors such as student and lecturer mobility and the number of international degree programmes also play a role in the profile. The participants’ “key indicators” are also ranked in relation to comparable universities. This can serve as an instrument for assessing their international activities and as a data basis for empirical comparisons and benchmarks.

Based on this information, the German academic landscape has developed a distinct momentum in the area of international exchange. But there are significant differences between individual types of university. Technical universities and colleges of art and music reach the highest scores. In the case of colleges of art and music, the share of foreign personnel working in research- or art-related areas has grown to 15.7 per cent since 2006, an increase of 20 per cent. Technical universities reported that foreign researchers now account for 13.8 per cent of their populations (an increase of 16 per cent). The increase in first-semester foreign students was even more pronounced. The share of first-semester foreign students rose by 13.3 per cent to a total of 16.1 per cent; at technical universities the share grew by 29.2 per cent so that foreign students presently comprise nearly one-quarter of all first-semester students.

Despite an overall positive trend, lower values were observed among small universities and universities of applied sciences. This is due in part to the fact that these universities have a harder time attracting foreign students, academics and researchers. In addition, technical disciplines are especially attractive to foreign students and researchers. The same applies to colleges of music and art, where the share of foreign students reaches 70 per cent at some of these institutions. Small universities made clear gains in the area of outward teacher mobility. The share of lecturers at small universities who have received assistance through the Erasmus programme has increased by 32 per cent (to 7.8 per cent of the entire teaching staff) since 2007.

By contrast, downward or stagnant developments can be seen in only a few areas such as the share of foreign students obtaining a doctorate. This has been largely constant since 2006 at all the categories of educational institution examined for this study (approximately 18 per cent at technical universities, approximately 14 per cent at small universities and 15 per cent at large universities).

With the help of the “International Cooperation” Action Plan, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research aims to advance the upward development using concrete measures and initiatives. The German government previously adopted a strategy for the internationalisation of science and research in Germany back in 2008. The new action plan ties in with this. “The internationalisation of our universities is a key priority not only for German but also for European education policy”, said Wanka. “Universities with an international profile offer students and researchers the chance to learn from and work with the world’s best.”

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

Every year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation enables more than 2,000 researchers from all over the world to spend time researching in Germany. The Foundation maintains a network of well over 26,000 Humboldtians from all disciplines in more than 140 countries worldwide – including 51 Nobel Laureates.


Teresa Havlicek
Lena Schnabel
Press, Communications and Marketing
Tel.: +49 228 833-423/-144
Fax: +49 228 833-441

Georg Scholl
Head of
Press, Communications and Marketing
Tel.: +49 228 833-258
Fax: +49 228 833-441

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