Some science courses are taught only in English, which Horst Hippler said should be rethought, suggesting that a mix would enrich the learning experience for students.
In an interview to mark the start of his role as head of the German Rector's Conference (HRK) – the body representing hundreds of higher education institutions – Hippler spoke to Die Welt daily newspaper about the importance of maintaining the German language in education.
Hippler, who is president of Karlsruhe Institute for Technology, said universities should be dissuaded from teaching courses entirely in English, and that the risk of this contributing to the decline of German was something institutions “should be aware of.”
He admitted that there were many international students who come to Germany and want to stay, but many take courses taught entirely in English, thus learning little German.
“A German language qualification should, sooner or later, be required from everyone,” Hippler told the paper.
Hippler said that although “publishing scientific work in English makes sense,” abandoning German completely is a mistake.
This not only creates a false idea of what is “international”, but also deprives lecturers of being able to bring a depth to their classes in a way only someone's mother tongue allows. This “really is a problem,” he added.
Elsewhere in the interview, Hippler touched on his intention to reopen the debate on university fees in Germany. He believes that without reassessing how higher education is funded, the system “could collapse.”
With the student population expanding rapidly, a squeeze in funding is to be expected, he said, and students should expect to carry some of the burden. “We are not talking about horrendously high fees, but about students contributing,” he said.
Last month new figures showed that although 80 percent of foreign students who complete courses in Germany would like to stay, only about a quarter do, with lack of bureaucratic help in English cited as one of the problems they face.