IN STATS: Fewer international students join German universities amid pandemic

IN STATS: Fewer international students join German universities amid pandemic
Students at a university in Stuttgart are advised to disinfect their desks before leaving the room. Photo: DPA
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of foreign students starting their studies at a German university has dropped significantly, official statistics showed on Wednesday.

In the winter term of 2020/21, about 99,400 (or 21 percent) less foreign students were enrolled, according to statistics released by Germany’s Statistical Office in Wiesbaden on Wednesday. 

In contrast, the number of German first-semester students at both the bachelor’s and master’s level rose slightly by two percent to 389,200. 

READ ALSO: How to finance your master’s studies in Germany as an international student

“The exceptionally sharp decline in foreign first-year students is largely due to the Covid pandemic, as a result of which it was considerably more difficult for students from abroad to take up studies at a German university,” the Federal Office explained. 

It has stated that a total of 488,600 first-year students enrolled at a German university for the first time in the last two semesters. 

The number fell by four percent compared to the 2019 academic year.

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Which fields are the most impacted?

With a drop of 42 percent compared to the previous year, the Federal Office recorded the largest decline in foreign first-time enrollments in the humanities. 

According to the report, most international first-time students enrolled in engineering and law, economics and social sciences. Even in these fields, inscriptions fell significantly, by 17 percent and 16 percent respectively.

Since the 2016/17 academic year, the number of foreign students attending university in Germany has constantly risen, climbing from 358,895 students five years ago to 411,601 students last year. 

Most foreign students study in North Rhine-Westphalia, followed by Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Berlin and Hesse. 

While most foreign students come from non-EU countries like China, Turkey, Russia and Syria, many are also Italian, Polish or Croatian. 

For them, moving to Germany and commencing their studies was much easier during the pandemic than for their non-EU fellows.

READ ALSO: In numbers: Who are Germany’s international students?


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  1. Maybe this is because of how poorly German universities have managed the pandemic. Personally, I found it a bit ridiculous that international students were expected to travel to the universities just to take exams because even after one year of pandemic universities did not have a plan to do examinations online. Compared to how other universities around the world have managed I was really disappointed with Germany.

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