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How Indians became Germany’s largest community of international students



A record 43,000 Indian students are presently enrolled in various German colleges and universities, marking an 100% increase over the last five years. Officials from the German Embassy in New Delhi say that they expect to see a further rise, with somewhere between 45,000-50,000 Indian students enrolled by the end of 2024.

Here is what has made Germany a sought-after destination to study abroad in recent years.

A steep rise

As per official statistics shared by the Embassy officials, as many as 20,810 Indian students were enrolled in German universities and colleges in 2018-19, which went up to 25,149 in 2019-20. After that, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of Indian students going to Germany continued to see a rise. There were 28,905 Indian students in Germany in 2020-21, 34,134 in 2021-22, and most recently, 42,997 in the 2023-24 academic year.

This rise has seen Indians go past Chinese students — 39,137 of whom are currently enrolled in Germany — who have always had a significant presence in German universities. After India and China, Syria (15,563), Austria (14,762), and Turkey (14,732) boast of the largest international student populations in Germany.

Festive offer

As of records from the 2022-2023 academic year, Germany hosts 4,58,210 international students — roughly 20 percent of Germany’s total student population.

Low costs, courses taught in English

Compared to other western countries, the cost of education in Germany is low as higher education is mostly public-funded. This means that students only have to take care of their living expenses, which German Embassy officials told The Indian Express was around 950 Euros (including rent, local transportation, food, and recreation).

What has historically dissuaded Indian students from studying in Germany, however, is that it is not an English-speaking country — unlike the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia, Indian students’ top choices. But German officials say that students are now increasingly approaching the country with an open mind, depending on where they find the most suitable programme of study. And Germany is offering courses in English as well. Currently, over 2000 degree courses are taught in English, mostly at Masters level. PhD courses, both structured and individual programmes, take this number even higher.

In 2023, Germany became the third most popular country for international students and the first among non-English speaking countries. As many as 16,850 fresh visas were issued by Germany to Indian students in the year 2023, as per details shared by the Embassy with The Indian Express.

With regards to what Indian students study in Germany, engineering programmes continue to be the most sought-after, accounting for 60% of all Indian students in Germany. But there is also a huge interest in streams such as law, management and social sciences (20%), and mathematics (15 %), the Embassy officials said.

Indian students abroad

Apart from Germany, Indian students are also the largest group of international students in the US, with nearly 267,000 Indians enrolled in US universities in 2022-23, more than a quarter of the 1 million international students in the US. As per projections of the US Embassy in New Delhi, the number of Indian students in the US will touch a million by 2030. The US issued record high numbers of student visas during June-August 2023.

Until August 2023, Canada stood among the top foreign study destinations for Indian students. However, between October to December 2023, an 86% decline was observed in the issuance of study permits to Indian students. Canada’s immigration data shows that only 14,910 Indian students chose Canadian institutions in the most recent intake cycle, as against 1,08,940 students (according to permits issued) in 2022.

Diplomatic issues between India and Canada that have affected visa processing and a two-year Canadian cap on international student permits will reduce the number of Indians obtaining student visas to attend Canadian universities in the short term.

Meanwhile, Germany’s new Skilled Immigration Act will also offer Indian students a smoother pathway into the German labour market. The German government now allows international students from outside the European Union to work up to 20 hours per week, overriding the previous limit of 10 hours, officials said.

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