UK universities witness first decline in German student enrollment since 2013

Austria, the Netherlands, and Switzerland emerged as the most popular study destinations for German students.

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Universities in the United Kingdom experienced a decline in German student enrollment for the first time since 2013, as revealed by the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis). 

According to the latest data, the number of German students in the United Kingdom dropped by 12 percent, totaling 11,100 in 2021 compared to the previous year, marking a departure from the trend observed over the past several years, the Erudera reported.

Destatis disclosed these findings on Jan. 17, stating that the United Kingdom was not among the top three preferred countries for German students in 2021. 

German student mobility 

Austria, the Netherlands, and Switzerland emerged as the most popular study destinations for German students, hosting 36,100, over 24,000, and 12,400 students, respectively.

Despite the decline in the UK, the overall number of German students studying abroad experienced a modest increase of 3 percent in 2021, reaching a total of 137,700. This indicates that an additional 4,200 German students pursued higher education in foreign countries during the specified period.

The growth in German student enrollment in the United States, Austria, and Portugal played a pivotal role in the overall increase. 

Croatia witnessed the most significant surge, with a 74 percent increase in German students, followed by the United States (59 percent) and Portugal (56 percent).

In terms of specific figures, 3,200 German students were in the United States, 2,300 in Austria, and 1,000 in Portugal in 2021. 

Impact of COVID-19

Destatis pointed out that after a decline in 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of students studying abroad almost reached the pre-pandemic level of 2019.

The report also highlighted that German students opting for studies in countries like the United States, Austria, and Portugal were primarily interested in programs such as “Economics, Administration, and Law” (27,700 students) and “Social Sciences, Journalism, and Information Technology” (24,700 students). 

Notably, 67 percent of German students enrolled at Dutch universities chose these courses.

One key factor influencing the choice of study destinations for German students was the limited availability of study places in the field of human medicine in Germany. 

Consequently, universities in Europe became an attractive option for those pursuing medical studies. 

The share of German students studying human medicine in Lithuania was 73 percent, in Hungary 64 percent, in Poland 59 percent, and in Czechia 44 percent.

UK’s transformative education landscape

Meanwhile, the educational landscape in the United Kingdom is currently undergoing a significant transformation characterized by a surge in international student enrollment and notable shifts in immigration policies.

During the academic year 2022-23, the UK witnessed an unprecedented increase in international student enrollment, reaching a record high of 787,000, reflecting a substantial 28.1 percent growth compared to the previous year. 

The surge can be attributed to proactive efforts by the UK’s Education Department, which has been actively attracting students from diverse regions such as China, India, and Nigeria. These efforts have contributed to the diversification and enrichment of the multicultural fabric within UK universities.

Concurrently, the UK government has implemented a robust immigration strategy to reduce net migration. 

The plan includes initiatives such as raising salary thresholds for overseas workers, tightening the Health and Care Worker visa regulations, and increasing income requirements for family sponsorships.

Moreover, the Graduate visa route is currently under scrutiny to ensure alignment with the UK’s interests and to prevent potential abuse.

According to a Telegraph report, UK universities are experiencing a drop in international student enrollment due to perceived unfavorable immigration policies. 

The University of Birkbeck reported a 10 percent decline for the upcoming academic year. Government measures, including restrictions on students bringing family members, have led to a direct impact, with students not enrolling or applying for visas.

The new restriction implemented this month, barring most foreign students from bringing family, raised concerns for universities reliant on international students for revenue. 

Financial implications are evident, prompting some universities, including Birkbeck, to implement voluntary redundancy schemes. 

The trend is also reflected in Ucas figures, showing a three percent decrease in accepted international students in 2023.

While some argued that the policies create an “unfavorable atmosphere,” others, including Alan Smithers from the University of Buckingham, believe the tightening of visa rules addresses the misuse of university entry as a migration route. 

The government, meanwhile, emphasized the UK’s appeal to bright students and acknowledged the rise in student dependents, pledging to work with universities on an alternative approach.

Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos has been a professional journalist for five years now. She has contributed and covered stories for premier Philippine dailies and publications, and has traveled to different parts of the country to capture and tell the most significant stories happening.

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Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos has been a professional journalist for five years now. She has contributed and covered stories for premier Philippine dailies and publications, and has traveled to different parts of the country to capture and tell the most significant stories happening.

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