Universities and politicians are repeatedly complaining that Germany's smartest brains are packing up and leaving to study and research abroad. But a study shows the country is gaining a growing number of foreign brains.
A growing number of foreign faces in Germany's lecture halls
Knowledge is international. For precisely this reason, Germany has become a significant hub of learning, said Education and Research Minister Edelgard Bulmahn.
"Germany belongs to the winners in the race for the smartest heads," Bulmahn said. "In the 1990s, we had an alarming brain drain in Germany. Since 2001, we've managed to achieve a turn of the tide."
According to a study by the German Student Services Studentenwerk, every tenth student in Germany comes from abroad. This makes Germany just as attractive a place to study as Britain. The percentage of foreign students is even higher than in the United States.
The number of foreign students has increased since the 1990s from 150,000 to some 230,000, the study said.
Asian interest in German institutions
German universities are probably also so popular because there are no tuition fees. This is a reason why so many students from developing countries and newly industrializing nations come to Germany. A strong increase in interest in German universities is especially noticeable from Asia.
"We have really managed to attract a significantly larger share of students from regions which are booming economically," Bulmahn said. "These are our future trade partners and these students are the ambassadors which we need in those countries."
Foreign students are increasingly filling German university libraries
At the same time, 15 percent of the more than 1.7 million German students spend at least part of their studies abroad. This makes them generally more mobile than their counterparts from Britain, Australia or the United States.
Bulmahn said this "welcome development" was somewhat marred, however. Despite reforms, children from socially weak families were still neglected for foreign study. Only 55,000 Germans go abroad solely for studying.
Brain drain to Germany
Still, the minister takes a positive stock of the matter.
Education and Research Minister Edelgard Bulmahn has been keen to attract more brainpower to Germany
"The mobility of German students can be seen worldwide, as well as the increase in the number of foreign students here," Bulmahn said. "In addition, we are attracting more scientists from abroad every year since the German government has created the general conditions for an internationally competitive research base."
The controversial junior professorship had helped stop the brain drain, she said. This position enables up-and-coming scientists to teach and research independently sooner if they can present an outstanding dissertation. The federal government supports these posts with an average of 60,000 euros ($73,640) per position.
The junior professorship has attracted talented foreign up-and-coming scientists to Germany and also brought young top German researchers back home. So, if at all, there can only be talk of brain drain to Germany.