Improved language support could increase stay rate of international students in Germany – ICEF Monitor


Short on time ? Here are the highlights:

  • A survey of almost 2,000 international students studying in Germany during the pandemic shows that many would like to stay in the country after graduation to work/immigrate or move on to another level of study
  • The most difficult obstacles for these students are language barriers and difficulties in making new friends, suggesting the need for more support for international students at German universities.

A 2021 Expatrio/DEGIS survey of almost 2,000 international students who chose to study in Germany during the pandemic found that (1) most were attracted by the country’s free tuition policy and (2 ) more than half intended to stay in the country after their studies. That said, language barriers are a concern for many international students in Germany, including those wishing to stay after graduation.

About the survey

The survey was conducted by Expatrio, a platform designed to support international students in Germany, while DEGIS is an organization that helps international students network and adapt to German culture.

Students from approximately 93 countries participated in the survey; most of them were preparing for a master’s degree (67%). The survey followed one conducted in 2020 and was larger than its predecessor, with 31% more student respondents. Responses were collected from August to October 2021 and reported in “Navigating the Pandemic: International Students’ Relocation to and Life in Germany 2021”.

Why do students choose Germany?

The students surveyed chose Germany mainly because of the country’s free tuition policy for all higher education students (45%); job opportunities were the second most influential factor (18%), especially for Mexican and Brazilian respondents.

“What was the most important factor that finally convinced you to come to Germany in the midst of the pandemic? Source: Expatrio/DEGIS

Most students who intend to stay will seek employment

Of more than half of students intending to stay in Germany, most planned to seek employment opportunities (38%) or continue their studies in the country (15%). The preferred length of stay in Germany was “more than 6 years” (27%), followed by 4-6 years (19%) and 2-4 years (18%), suggesting that permanent residency is in the spirit of many international students in Germany.

“What do you plan to do next? [your studies]? Source: Expatrio/DEGIS

Linguistic and social challenges are a problem

More than a quarter of students surveyed said language difficulties had been difficult for them, and almost as many said they had encountered difficulties meeting new friends and finding accommodation. The feeling of social isolation can be particularly pronounced among Indonesian, South Korean, Taiwanese, Pakistani and Chinese students: more than 50% of these segments said they felt, at least at some point, the desire to return to their native country. Among Chinese students, this proportion rises to 70%.

“What was the biggest challenge you encountered after arriving in Germany? Source: Expatrio/DEGIS

Many students were sufficiently concerned about not being able to communicate well enough that they saw it as a barrier to remaining in the country after graduation. Almost half (47%) said language barriers could be a problem, suggesting their concerns about language proficiency may go unaddressed throughout their study journey.

“What obstacles do you foresee to stay in Germany? Language barriers, much more than living expenses, pose a serious challenge for international students in Germany. Source: Expatrio/DEGIS

More competition in 2021 than in 2020

The survey also revealed that Germany faces more competition for international students in 2021 than in 2020, especially from the United States and Canada. The results showed that the Netherlands, France and Spain are increasingly competitive outside the main traditional destinations.

“Which country did you have on your list before finally choosing Germany? » 45% of respondents had no other destination in mind, but there is a slight increase in the proportions considering alternative destinations in 2021. Source: Expatrio/DEGIS

Improving language and social supports should be a priority

The survey report notes that “allowing internationals with German degrees to stay in the country is highly relevant for the German economy, as it alleviates the current shortage of skilled workers.” At this point, Tim Meyer, co-founder of Expatrio, said:

“We are happy that Germany is increasingly popular among international students around the world and that Expatrio is part of an ecosystem that supports them. A diverse and inclusive society increases people’s quality of life. policymakers should minimize bureaucratic hurdles and language barriers while promoting digitalization within authorities.”

Germany has weathered the pandemic relatively well in terms of international student enrolments. The total number of international students at German universities increased slightly in 2020/21 and German higher education institutions are reporting both an increase in the total number of international students and an increase in new international enrollments for the semester of winter 2021/22.

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