More Germans Are Opting to Study Abroad
Published: January 23, 2011
BERLIN — In a country once known for its lack of mobility for students and employees, more and more students are deciding to study abroad.
According to a report published this month by the German Welfare Service, an agency financed by the national Ministry of Education and Research, the number of German students studying abroad nearly doubled, from 52,000 to 102,000, from 2000 to 2008.
The increase comes at a time when the government of Germany, where there are more than two million students, is pumping additional money into higher education programs and the European Union continues to offer billions of euros in financial incentives for young people to study in any of the 27 member states.
The European Students’ Union, a lobbying organization for 45 student unions across Europe, said Friday that the German figures were good news.
“Students studying abroad enrich their skills and gain culturally from mixing in such an international environment,” said Marianne Slegers, a spokeswoman for the student union. “Clearly globalization plays a big role when it comes to students moving away from their own countries.”
The study also showed that, within the European Union, German students were the most mobile.
The German government has for years supported exchange programs between French and German schools and universities. They were established as part of a long-term goal aimed at overcoming cultural and political differences but also overcoming the enmity that once existed between the two countries.
While France still remains a popular destination for students, Spain and Britain are becoming just as attractive, the study found.
Through the German Academic Exchange Service, known as D.A.A.D., which represents 365 higher education institutions, German students can take advantage of grants and loans through scholarships. According to the German Welfare Service study, 30 percent of students received government grants.
In 2010, D.A.A.D.’s budget increased by 10 percent to almost €385 million, or $518 million. The number of Germans directly supported by D.A.A.D. rose by a fifth, to 25,264, in comparison with 2008. The service’s budget could be further increased; the budget for the Ministry of Education and Research, one of the few ministries that has been spared cutbacks, increased by 7.2 percent this year from 2010, to €11.6 billion.
Students can also obtain funding from the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm. It has allocated €7 billion for 2007 to 2013. Those funds are channeled to schools, higher education, vocational education and training and adult education. Of the €7 billion, €450 million is given annually to the so-called Erasmus program, which enables nearly 200,000 students to study and work abroad each year.
Androulla Vassiliou, the European commissioner for education, culture, multilingualism and youth, said recently that during the academic year 2008-9, a total of 198,000 students, which included 30,000 Germans, had studied abroad under the Erasmus program. That is an increase of 8.7 percent from the previous year. On average, Erasmus students receive a monthly stipend of €272.
But the European Students’ Union says European Commission funding is still inadequate.
“The commission’s budget could be much bigger. When you think of it, €7 billion, which is spread over several education programs, is not that much,” Ms. Slegers, the union’s spokeswoman, said. “If you look at the statistics, those who study abroad still come from well-off families. Students from any kind of background should be able to have the chance to study abroad.”
A version of this article appeared in print on January 24, 2011, in The International Herald Tribune.