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Why International Students Drop Out of Studies/ University at a Higher Rate

DAAD presented the interim findings of a study at Chemnitz University of Technology

Surveys have shown that the dropout rate at universities is higher for international students than it is for native students. Here at German universities, the dropout rate for international students stands at 45% for bachelors students and 29% for masters. For native students, the rates are 17% for bachelors and 10% for masters lower. A systematic investigation into the reasons for this trend is not yet available.

 Based on that fact, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) project, titled “  Success and withdrawal of international students in Germany (SeSaBa)“, was initiated. A total of 125 German universities participated in the project, including Chemnitz University of Technology. Partners in the study are the Bavarian State Institute for University Research and Planning, as well as the Distance-Learning University in Hagen. For the first time, the project partners are systematically investigating the reasons behind the higher rate of discontinuation. Initial results of the study were presented by project manager Dr. Jesús Pineda, as a part of a workshop put on by the Commission of the University Management on Internationalisation on 27 Juni 2019.

An important finding of the study: preparatory course offerings and accompanying course offerings are accepted at different rates, depending on the type. Preference is given by the target group to introduction and orientation events, study counselling services and German language courses. In addition, there are also initial indications that the subject of study and country of origin also play a role. However, this still needs to be further verified.

“I sincerely thank Dr. Pineda for making the long journey from Bonn to Chemnitz in order to share the interim results of the project and his thoughts on the subject. Due to the large number of participating universities, including 17 technical universities or universities, the results are quite comparable and relevant, and important starting points can be derived from them, starting points that will help optimise the academic success of international students. Our university has set this as an important goal, even beyond the context of our participation in the ‘Internationalisation of Universities‘ re-audit of the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK). For this reason alone, I am looking quite forward to the further results of the SeSaBa- project and the recommendations that will come from them,“ said Vice President for Academic and International Affairs at Chemnitz University of Technology and Chair of the Commission of the University Management on Internationalisation, Prof. Dr. Maximilian Eibl, in his comments at the end of the workshop.

After the survey is complete, the findings will be summarised in a publication that includes recommendations for reducing the likelihood of international dropouts at German universities, and this publication will be made available to the respective universities. Current project information is available online (

Background: DAAD Project „SeSaBa“

The SeSaBa- project began in the middle of 2017 and is financed through 2021 by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), as a part of the “Study Success and Discontinuation“ funding programme. There are a total of 125 universities in Germany, including Chemnitz University of Technology. At the centre of this programme is the production of a systematic study on the topic and the conditions present that lead to a dropout rate of 45% for international bachelors students and 29% for international masters students – 17  resp. 10 percentage points higher than their domestic counterparts. At the same time, however, the project should also identify factors that contribute to the success of international students at universities in Germany.

To accomplish this, a qualitative preliminary study was carried out, in which specific problems and challenges of the target group were identified within the framework of workshops involving internationalisation experts from German universities as well as international students themselves. These problems and challenges include individual factors such as language and financing, a lack of daily study habits, and a discrepancy between the expectations and the realities of life in Germany, as well as institutional requirements such as a lack of preparation regarding university structure and its offerings, legal regulations, and finally social factors such as social isolation or segregation.

On the basis of these results, a research design was created in which international students in a Bachelor‘s degree programme at German universities were interviewed 6 times and Master‘s students 4 times, so as to observe their developments during the course of their studies. Since the panel surveys are still running until Summer Semester 2020, it was only possible to present “halfway point results“ at this time.

Background: The International Office‘s Buddy Program is number one worldwide

The International Office (IUZ) of Chemnitz University of Technology supports international students with various programmes, including the Buddy Program. As a part of this, current university students volunteer to support international students during their first steps at the university and in the city.

Recently, the Buddy Program was recognised by the “International Student Barometer 2018/2019“. International students from Chemnitz University of Technology gave the programme the highest marks and secured it a top worldwide position.

Further background on the Buddy Program is available online in the form of a video on the Chemnitz University of Technology YouTube channel.

(Article: Matthias Fejes and Dr. Wolfgang Lambrecht / Translation: Jeffrey Karnitz)

Matthias Fejes

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