Germany needs more foreign students

Lecture Hall in Hanover

According to the IW, there is no distinctive scholarship system at German universities that could attract foreign students.

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin Germany should pave the way for students from outside the EU to enter German universities and then make it easier for them to enter the labor market. This is what the employer-related Institute of German Business calls for in a new study that is available to the Handelsblatt.

This group of students is suitable for alleviating the shortage of skilled workers because, ideally, they are already integrated at the end of their studies and have mastered the German language. In addition, they often have degrees in STEM subjects, i.e. they are engineers, computer scientists or natural scientists, for example.

>> Also read: In Germany 137,000 IT specialists are missing ascending trend

The study states that this group of “immigrants via the university” still only makes up three percent of all academics. And since they are in demand worldwide, these young talents must be recruited more actively than before, recommends IW expert Wido Geis-Thöne.

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Above all, he calls for a scholarship or guarantee program for “high-performing young people from poorer families in third countries” who have so far been de facto excluded from studying in Germany.

Admittedly, the opportunities for immigration are generally quite liberal. However, students from non-EU countries must prove that they have sufficient financial resources – otherwise “they cannot come to Germany,” writes the immigration expert.

No scholarship culture at German universities

Once enrolled at a German university, they can take on a part-time job – but only for a maximum of 120 days a year. However, this “ultimately is of little use to students from poorer families in countries with a low level of prosperity, since they are already excluded from moving to university for the first time without sufficient family assets,” criticizes the expert.

The fact that the course is free of fees is of no use either, which puts Germany in a special position internationally. It would even become a disadvantage, because due to the fact that there are no fees, “no strong scholarship system has developed in this country that could possibly secure the livelihood of the top performers”.

Currently, only Baden-Württemberg and Saxony charge tuition fees from non-EU foreigners. In the southwest it is generally 1500 euros per semester. Saxony is free to the universities whether and how much they charge a fee, provided they offer a scholarship program at the same time.

Geis-Thöne recommends that these immigrants should be granted an unlimited residence permit immediately after they graduate in Germany. Because their chances on the job market are excellent even if they accept a job during a transition phase for which they are overqualified as academics.

They can currently receive a residence permit for up to 18 months to look for a job, which then has to be “qualification-adequate”. As soon as they have found one, they can then apply for a settlement permit. This can also be extended after two years.

IW promotes trust in the German higher education system

This complicated path is unnecessary “if you trust the German university system,” says Geis-Thöne. In addition, easier access to the job market could already convince more students of Germany as a location.

So far, Germany has made little use of this form of immigration: in 2019, only 307,000 people between the ages of 25 and 64 had completed their schooling abroad and their highest degree in Germany – that was three percent of all academics.

>> Read also: Minister of Labor Heil presents key points for immigration reform against shortage of skilled workers

For comparison: the proportion of immigrants who only immigrated after completing their studies was more than five times as high at a good 15 percent.

However, the qualification structure of the “immigrants via the university” is particularly favorable for securing skilled workers: They have a master’s degree or a doctorate much more frequently than other academics.

Almost 60 percent of the young academics between the ages of 24 and 34 who have immigrated via the university have a master’s degree or doctorate. Among the domestic academics in this age group, it is only 30 percent. In addition, almost every second immigrant has a degree in a mint subject – for non-immigrants it is only a good 30 percent.
More: Foreign students offer enormous potential for the economy – but too few stay here

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