When students think about studying in a foreign country, their destination of choice tends to be either the United Kingdom or the United States, the two countries with the best universities according to most rankings.
But a study released on Wednesday by Study.EU argues that Germany is now the best option for international students studying in Europe.
The study ranked 30 European countries according to three categories: education, costs, and life and career.
Germany came on top with a total score of 83.2 out of 100 – far ahead of the UK, which was scored at 69.8.
Gerrit Blöss, CEO of Study.EU, told The Local that Germany scored strongly in all three categories.
“In comparison with the UK, there are a high number of higher education institutions which are ranked well in international rankings,” he said, addressing the quality of education offered in Germany.
Blöss pointed out that while the UK still comes on top in typical university rankings, German higher education schools received much better teaching scores than their UK rivals.
“Where Germany has made a considerable improvement is in the number of courses offered in English. While the UK and Ireland dominate this metric, offering almost all courses in English, Germany is second only to the Netherlands in the amount of courses students can study in English,” he said.
There are now around 150 German universities that offer at least one English-taught programme, out of a total of around 400.
Cost is of education is another factor which made Germany stand out over the UK. While tuition fees have been abolished in the Bundesrepublik, the UK had the most expensive tuition of all the 30 countries analysed.
Blöss pointed out, though, that Baden-Württemberg is now trying out tuition fees for international students.
“If these were rolled out nation-wide, it would undermine Germany's competitiveness as a study destination.”
There also seems to be a fairly seamless path in Germany from graduating to employment.
Blöss pointed to Eurostat figures which show that only 2.3 percent of people with a degree in Germany are unemployed, the lowest on the continent.
Add to that strong scores in the UN world happiness report and moderately good levels of English among the general public, and Germany also scores strongly in the life and career category.
More and more students appear to be taking note of the higher education package on offer in Germany, with 340,000 foreign students in the country in 2015-16, compared to 265,000 four years before, figures from the Federal Statistical Office show.
“The vast majority of these students actually study in German, but the trend is going towards English,” said Blöss.
And with political change in the air, more and more students could make the choice to stay on the continent.
“Two significant political developments will influence global higher education for years to come. First, there is the Trump presidency, driving international students away from the US to other countries – in many cases, Europe,” said Blöss.
“And then there is the upcoming Brexit, of which neither the timeline nor the consequences are foreseeable.
“Many prospective students expect deteriorating conditions in the UK, and they are starting to look for study-abroad experiences elsewhere in Europe.”
Still, Blöss cautioned that it is too early to start predicting Germany will take the UK's crown as the number one study destination in Europe, pointing out that Britain still has roughly 100,000 more international students than Germany.
For one thing, the falling value of the pound against the euro could make tuition in the UK cheaper for Europeans.
“The number of international students in Germany will certainly grow in the coming years, but it's hard to predict if and when the country would have the most international students in all of Europe.”