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Turkish students in Germany

Turkish Doctoral students represent 10% of all foreign students in Germany


The number of Turkish students in Germany is remarkable. The prime reasons are related to the 50 years of Turkish migration and the existence of social and institutional networks.

These networks foster such mobility, as does the perception of a higher value for a German degree in the Turkish labour market as well as the lower tuition fees charged by German higher education institutions.

But caution is needed when reading the statistical data about international students. They are classified all over the world according to foreign citizenship. In Europe, where migration rates – but not necessarily naturalisation rates – are high, there might appear to be an overrepresentation of students who enter a country mainly for educational purposes.


Latest German statistics in the data report Wissenschaft Weltoffen indicate that students from Turkey represent 10% of all foreign students and comprise the major group among the international student population.

But ‘non-mobile’ Turkish students make up 29% of the non-mobile group and are again the largest, while mobile foreign students from Turkey are the sixth biggest, with 3.6 % – lagging behind China (12.3%), Russia (5.4%), Bulgaria (4.1%), Poland (4%) and Austria (3.8%).

First-year enrolments of mobile foreign students increased in 2011, although the rise was more pronounced in postgraduate studies, where they comprised 14% of general university enrolments and 12% at universities of applied sciences.

A further sharp increase occurred in foreign doctoral student numbers attending university for the first time, with 17% enrolled in 2010, a trend that is increasing and likely to continue because of newly introduced generous funding schemes and relatively much lower tuition fees.

Doctoral students are an inseparable cog in the knowledge production of a country, and Germany is well aware of this, with initiatives to attract more doctoral students from abroad.

In 2010, the majority of mobile foreign doctoral students were pursuing their education in mathematics and natural sciences, followed by engineering, social sciences, law and economics.

Among Turkish postgraduates, the popular subjects are economics, mechanical and process engineering, information technology and electro-technology. This is perhaps related to the perception in Turkey of Germany as a technologically advanced country.

Although Germany had introduced policies in favour of post-study employment for international doctoral graduates, there are still no data as to what those students do after graduating. An obvious option is staying on in Germany but this requires a job that matches the skills and education of the PhD holder.

Returning to the country of origin is another option while the third, often discussed by international doctoral candidates, is to search for employment in the wider European area.

The common belief is that their high skills will give them a competitive advantage in the labour market. But age, family-related issues, transnational ties as well as gender are some of the crucial traits to be studied further in international doctoral students’ and graduates’ decision-making.

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