Press Release – Research Unit

New study: ”Countering Demographic Decline. How Germany’s shrinking universities attract and retain international students“

Berlin, 24 September 2019. More students than ever before are studying for a degree in Germany. Nonetheless, one in six of the country’s 263 public universities and universities of applied sciences are shrinking. The reason is demographic change. Low birth rates and the depopulation of certain regions of Germany mean that the number of domestic students is declining in some areas. This downturn is also exacerbating the skills shortages which are already being experienced in some sectors, for example in mechanical engineering.

In its latest study, the Research Unit at the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration (SVR) analyses how shrinking universities address the demographic challenges at hand. The study was funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Key findings:

  • Well over half of Germany’s 41 shrinking universities are tackling demographic change by recruiting more international students.
  • Many do so by reaching out to prospective international students at their various “pit stops” on the way to Germany, for example at language schools and partner universities/schools and, increasingly, on the Internet and social media.
  • Additional help is provided to refugees who try to enter German higher education. With the support of federal government funding, many shrinking universities have put in place innovative initiatives, which, going forward, could help improve access to higher education for all students.
  • Since Germany’s shrinking universities are often located in regions where there is a shortage of skilled workers, more should be done to retain international students on the local job market after they graduate. Although pilot projects do exist, they are not always sustainable.

Going forward, many universities across Europe will see their domestic student population decline. That is why universities and their partners should take note of how Germany’s shrinking universities have taken active steps to help prospective international students access and succeed in their study programmes. Targeted government investment could be used to support these and other measures designed to attract and retain international students.

Download the report here.

Your contact for press enquiries:
Dr. Margret Karsch, Communication
SVR GmbH, Neue Promenade 6, 10178 Berlin, Germany
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About the Expert Council’s Research Unit

The Expert Council´s Research Unit conducts independent, practice-oriented research projects in the field of integration and migration. The project-based studies are dedicated to emerging trends and issues and focus mainly on the fields of education and refugees/asylum. The Research Unit complements the work of the Expert Council. The core funding is provided by Stiftung Mercator. The Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration is based on an initiative of Stiftung Mercator and the Volkswagen Foundation. The initiative further includes: Bertelsmann Stiftung, Freudenberg Foundation, Robert Bosch Stiftung, Stifterverband and Vodafone Foundation Germany. The Expert Council is an independent nonprofit, monitoring,