Deutschland Uber Alles, Even in Higher Education

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 3/10/2011 12:01:00 AM
You've got to hand it to the Germans. I suppose they're a bit like a big brother who can do everything better than you--they're bound to create resentment. In a neat chronological and geographical inversion, Germany has been called the China of Europe as it beats the living daylight out of uncompetitive European states. Economic performance notwithstanding, it is also remarkable how well-liked Germans are worldwide. According to the most recent BBC World Service Country Rating Poll, Germany is regarded as the country having the most positive influence on the world. Again, not bad for a country that not so long ago was the main instigator of the bloodiest conflict in human history. Maybe it also points out the benefits of minding your own business and selling the best stuff possible--something a certain North American country should probably learn.

Having studied in the US and the UK, I've always thought, "Well, for all that, Germany is not so strong in education." If you thought the same thing, you and I have guessed wrong. The British Council promotes all things British, especially English language and international education opportunities in the UK. It is well-known that international higher education is becoming a major service export as countries strive to attract the world's best minds and their often-healthy pockets. While educational league tables are still dominated by American and British institutions, guess which country now ranks highest in international student satisfaction? Shocking Anglophone institutions out of their complacency, it's the Fatherland. From Auntie:
Germany has been named as the most supportive country for overseas students, in an international league table. Among the attractions for international students is the increasing availability in Germany of courses taught entirely in English, so much so that students can complete degrees without ever having to speak German. In the international zones of these classes, students from Germany, the United States and China participate in seminars conducted by German professors speaking in English...

The survey from the British Council which has placed Germany in first place is called the Global Gauge. It comes ahead of a major British Council conference in Hong Kong examining university globalisation, called Going Global, which begins on Thursday. The league table ranks university systems on measures such as openness, degree quality, how widely degrees are recognised, support for overseas students and how much students were encouraged to spend time abroad...

The UK was ranked in third place, with China coming fourth, ahead of the United States in sixth place, in a table showing 11 of the biggest players in the overseas student market. The strongest overall performance was from Germany, which has promoted a deliberate policy of internationalisation.

There are more students from Germany studying abroad than any other European country and it wants half of its students to spend at least a term abroad, giving Germany one of the world's most mobile student populations. The global market in overseas students has become a highly-lucrative business. The British Council estimates that it is worth £8bn a year to the UK economy.

But one of the attractions of Germany is that overseas students do not pay any more in tuition fees than home students. Universities in many parts of Germany do not charge any tuition fees, which means in those places overseas students do not pay any fees at all..."One of the strongest motivators is finance. To go to university in [my home country of] Canada means taking on debt. It's essentially free to do it in Germany. It's incredibly appealing not to have to mortgage your future."

Sophie Perl, a student from the United States, also echoes the appeal of being able to study abroad, while paying less than at home. "I think the biggest factor is financial. In the US a graduate programme would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, in Germany it doesn't cost anything. And it doesn't cost more for foreign students than it does for German students." Dr Christian Lammert, who is leading the seminar, delivers what he says is now a "completely international" type of course. Even the noticeboards in the corridor have information in English.
So, in contrast to most Anglophone institutions, German ones (a) charge less if at all and (b) do not discriminate between home and foreign students. All the while, German institutions have made a conscious effort to teach in English and promote its system of higher education abroad on that particular angle. My goodness! They beat you on the football pitch, in the global marketplace, and now even in international education--in your own language not theirs, no less. This field being one of the few where Germany has traditionally lagged behind, I guess it's more eager to please. Those Germans are a menace--but thankfully not on the battlefield. I guess they've found...more productive outlets for their competitive urges.

BTW: The Going Global website for which this report was prepared is here.