Tertiary Focus
The German higher education sector is well on track to welcome 350,000 international students by 2020. Nicola Hancox talks to public and private providers about their international profiles.

The number of international students entering German higher education is growing steadily, up 5.8 per cent to 340,305 in 2016, according to data released by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Overall, international students made up 12.3 per cent of the higher education student body in Germany in 2016, a 0.4 per cent increase over 2015.


Most universities in Germany are publicly financed and tuition is free, including FH Aachen University of Applied Sciences, which has locations in Aachen and Jülich in North Rhine-Westphalia in the west of Germany.


"With more than 13,500 students, almost 2,000 graduates a year, 10 faculties, more than 70 degree programmes, nine in-house and three affiliated is one of the biggest and most important universities of applied sciences in Germany," relates Maike Keulen from FH Aachen's Faculty of Business Studies. International students make up approximately 20 per cent of the entire university population, notes Maike, with Asian and European nationalities well represented.


The Faculty of Business Studies is the university's largest faculty, with over 2,400 students. Offering three international bachelor degree programmes, plus a degree in Global Business and Economics taught entirely in English, students appreciate the practical nature of the programmes. "Students acquire fundamental and practice-oriented knowledge of economic sciences in an international and global context," confirms Maike. "Furthermore, the Faculty of Business Studies cultivates close contacts with over 90 worldwide partner universities," she adds.


A small percentage of international students opt to study at a private university or college that does charge fees, however, for example GISMA Business School in Berlin and Hannover.


There are several advantages to studying with a privately funded HE provider such as GISMA, notes Akos Kiraly, Director of Student Recruitment. Accredited by AMBA, the school works in partnership with Grenoble Ecole de Management, one of the few management schools worldwide that boasts a trio of accreditations (EQUIS, AACSB, and AMBA).


Other value-added benefits of enrolling at GISMA include free German language courses, a specialist university placement service, and an almost entirely international student body (90 per cent). "The focus of our recruitment activities has always been recruiting students from outside of Germany, be it from other EU countries or from overseas," says Akos.


Delivering MBAs and master's degrees, including Master in International Business and Master of Science programmes, at both campuses, there is a strong emphasis on management skills in a variety of business areas, such as Human Resources, Marketing, Finance and Strategy. The Grenoble MIB is the most popular course in GISMA's portfolio, notes Akos, attracting a high number of EU and non-EU students.


General tuition fees were scrapped in Germany back in 2011 after they were introduced, rather unsuccessfully, in 2005. However, the German State of Baden-Württemberg adopted a tuition fee structure for non-EU students for the 2017/18 winter semester.


Spokesperson for Baden-Württemberg's  Ministry of Science, Research and Arts, Jochen Schönmann, notes it is too early to tell what impact this has had on non-EU recruitment numbers for the new academic year, but initial indications are that applications at the 50 higher education institutions based in the state have not waned significantly.


"In the last 10-to-15 years there has been an increase of international students in the state university system. We want to keep an open door policy. After all, international students help enrich the overall university experience. But we need international students to make a moderate contribution to help sustain the quality of the higher education system. A semester fee of just e1,500 (US$1,780) is still considerably less than the fees charged by other international HE destinations," relates Jochen.


North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populous state in Germany with a significant student population (500,000+), is also considering a fee-based system for non-EU students, adds Jochen, with discussions taking place in parliament at the time of writing.


The number of international students successfully matriculating through the German education system is, however, comparatively low, notes Jochen. "The onus is now on providers to help prepare international students academically, linguistically and culturally for life in the German higher education system." 


A number of private providers in Germany's language and pathway sectors can help equip international students with the necessary language skills required for continued study.


Preparing for success

Several private language schools aim to adequately prepare international students for the rigours of a university in Germany. Humboldt-Institut in Berlin and Constance can help prospective students, in a relatively short space of time, achieve the mandatory German level required for Studienkolleg (B1/B2) or university study (C1).


"For an additional fee of e400 (US$474) we not only counsel students to find the most suitable university programme but we take on the entire application process," says Tobias Langenstein. "It is very important to know that the requirements and the application processes vary from region to region and from university to university."


F+U Academy of Languages in Heidelberg is another provider that can help international students gain entry to a German university. Its International Prep School is affiliated to Berlin's University of Applied Sciences for Business (HWTK) and offers a 36-week preparatory course for the externe Feststellungsprüfung (official test for university entrance), says Carolin Kemen, who adds that students are guaranteed a place on one of HWTK's business-related degree programmes.

Contact the advertisers in this issue