The international study experience in Germany: How does it compare?

We take a look at how German higher education institutions performed in terms of internationalisation in the academic year 2016-17. Results are from the International Student Barometer (ISB), the largest annual survey of international students in the world which tracks and compares the decision-making, expectations, perceptions and intentions of international students from application to graduation.

Who took part in the 2016 survey?

  • Over 159,000 international students took part globally from 196 higher education institutions across 17 countries worldwide
  • This included over 18,000 international students studying at 37 German institutions
  • Those studying at German institutions came from a variety of countries including China (11%), India (8%), Iran (4%) and Turkey (4%)
  • The survey was completed by international and EU students at all years and levels of study, including study abroad and exchange students.

The ISB 2016/17 dataset is the most significant and comprehensive worldwide study of international student experience to date.

Are international students likely to recommend their German institution?

The appeal of Germany as a foreign study location has increased tremendously over the years. A comparison of the 2009 and 2016 ISB data shows an increase of 13% in terms of international students actively recommending Germany as a study destination. Of all international students in Germany, 42% stated that they would actively encourage other students to apply.

Germany ranked 6th in an international comparison of 9 countries in the 2016 survey. Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK do better but Germany outperforms Australia, Hong Kong and the USA in terms of recommendation.

"Over 159,000 international students took part globally from 196 higher education institutions across 17 countries worldwide"

Finding your feet as an international student in Germany – how does the arrival experience compare?

A student’s arrival experience is one of the first they have of the institution. It is important for institutions to understand that the experience starts before classes commence; information-gathering, enrolment, the visa process and the arrival experience into the country of study all adds to the international students’ experience.

66% of students are satisfied and 18% are very satisfied with the arrival experience at their German institution. These results are close to the global benchmark, in which 23% are very satisfied and 67% are satisfied. Many international offices work hard to provide a good arrival experience, but there is still room for improvement.

How does learning compare?

Germany provides a first-class education and the learning facilities are ranked highly. German institutions perform similarly to the global benchmark: 85% of students in Germany are either satisfied or very satisfied, compared to 87% internationally.

Online facilities and connections to the job market fall short and this is an area where German institutions need to pay greater attention, given that future career is a significant reason why international student select Germany as a study destination.

"85% of students in Germany are either satisfied or very satisfied, compared to 87% internationally"


Living it up: international student’s view of living in Germany

The ISB asks a series of questions about what is described as the living area and when it comes to both living costs and accommodation costs, Germany outperforms the global benchmark considerably. 84% of students in Germany are satisfied with living costs, compared to the benchmark of 72%. On the other hand, campus buildings and social facilities rank 9th in the global comparison. So how does living in Germany compare overall? 84% of international student in Germany are satisfied compared to 88% globally.

Support services for international students in Germany

Support in the ISB encompass services ranging from the cafeteria and accommodation office to the careers advisory service. Across the globe, it is difficult to provide services that thrill students, but it can do a lot of damage to an international study experience and to the reputation of the institution if students feel they lack support.

In Germany, the majority of students are satisfied (74%) against a global benchmark of 75%.

The level of satisfaction with support services at German institutions has improved considerably over time – by 13% since 2009. For every element surveyed, satisfaction levels have gone up.

Main conclusion

When it comes to the international student experience in Germany, improvements have been made over the years, but competition is strong and there is still room for improvement on the global table.

Germany ranks particularly well in terms of living and accommodation costs and on top of this, there are no (or very low) tuition fees. In a world dominated by high fees, the fact that international students can get a highly regarded academic qualification at a relatively low cost is a major selling point.

It is important to note however that the other countries where comparative benchmarks are available for similar years have demonstrated even greater improvement. With such competition, it is more important than ever to keep a finger on the pulse.

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The ISB helps institutions make informed decisions to enhance the international student experience and drive successful recruitment and marketing strategies.

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