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Methodological Comments

On the available data and the validity of the results

Foreign students, first-year students and graduates in Germany

Information on foreign students, first-year students and graduates is derived from the official higher education statistics, the EU statistics on the ERASMUS programme, the international and DAAD statistics on Transnational Education Projects, the DZHW student dropout calculations and the research by the DAAD, the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), the Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW) and the OECD on retention of foreign graduates in the countries where they have studied.

Data for the official higher education statistics is generated by the higher education institutions, which are bound by law to collect and provide data in certain specified formats, through their administrative units. In relation to examinations taken, however, the official higher education statistics only record data on degrees gained. Preliminary and intermediate examinations are not recorded. The data provided by the higher education institutions on students, first-years and graduates is monitored by the individual federal states' Statistical Offices, which also carry out plausibility checks. However, data validity is insufficient for a few areas. In many cases, this is due to individual higher education institutions not complying with administrative rules and regulations. The federal states' Statistical Offices pass on a predetermined selection of their verified and formatted data to the Federal Statistical Office.

The information on the countries of origin of various groups of students and of academics at German higher education institutions, presented by continent and region, largely corresponds to the "Countries of the World" (Länder der Erde) classification system used by the DFG. The only deviation from this system is the allocation of Turkey and Greece to the region of Eastern Europe instead of Western Europe.
The EU publishes statistics on the number of students participating in the ERASMUS programme each year. The ISCED subject-group classification system used for these statistics differs from that used for the German higher education statistics, meaning that the data on the subjects studied is not directly comparable.

The student dropout rate amongst Bildungsauslaender was calculated using a cohort comparison process developed by the DZHW. A student dropout is understood to refer to a former student who, by virtue of enrolment, commenced a first degree or a master's degree programme at a German higher education institution, but who left the German higher education system without completing the degree. Students who transfer to another university of applied sciences or higher education institution within Germany are not taken into consideration in the dropout rate. However, those Bildungsauslaender who commence a first degree or master's course of study in Germany but who then transfer to a higher education institution abroad, e.g. in their home country, and successfully complete their studies there, are considered as student dropouts. When calculating the student dropout rate by means of a cohort comparison, a graduation year is compared with the corresponding intake year. In analysing the student dropout, only those Bildungsauslaender who were studying on a degree programme at a German higher education institution were included. Students on ERASMUS programmes or other temporary stays in Germany were not included.

Three sets of research data are available on the retention rate of foreign students in Germany following completion of their degrees: an OECD study from 2011, a study by the Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW) and one by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). The first two studies are based on data or address records from the Central Register of Foreigners (AZR) and therefore only cover third country foreign students, i.e. those from countries which are not part of the European Economic Area (all countries apart from EU countries, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland). The IW study, on the other hand, is based on data from the German micro census and therefore also includes foreigners from other EU countries. All three studies are different in terms of the time periods examined, the methods of calculating retention and in relation to the definition of the sample examined, so they all produce different retention rates. The (higher) quotas calculated by the BAMF and the IW seem more reliable than the OECD quota, because their calculations are based on longer and more recent base periods.

German students abroad

Information on German students abroad is derived from the official higher education statistics, DAAD statistics on the ERASMUS programme and various student and graduate surveys.

To date, the annual "German students abroad" survey conducted by the Federal Statistical Office has been the only source of data for estimating the degree-related mobility of German students abroad. The student numbers recorded in this survey comprise an overestimate of foreign students aiming to obtain their degrees abroad - to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the country - because in some cases, temporarily mobile students are also included in the data. The data collected by DESTATIS since the 2008 academic year on German graduates abroad therefore comprise a useful supplement, although this data is available for far fewer countries than the student numbers.

To date, there are no official statistics on overall temporary study-related mobility of German students abroad, so these figures can only be estimated on the basis of student and graduate surveys. Official data is only available for one aspect of this topic: the temporary study or placement visits abroad organised by the EU's ERASMUS programme. "Wissenschaft weltoffen" therefore uses the findings of the DAAD/DZHW mobility study as its central data basis for estimating temporary study-related mobility. This survey comprises the only regular survey to date which deals specifically with the international mobility of German students. The data collection method (online survey) ensures that this survey also includes students who are abroad at the time of the survey. These findings are supplemented by data from other student surveys such as the DSW's Social Survey (in particular when examining long-term trends), the Student Survey by the University of Konstanz and the graduate surveys conducted by the DZHW, the International Centre for Higher Education Research Kassel (INCHER) and the Bavarian State Institute for Higher Education Research and Planning (IHF).

International Mobility of Students

Information on international student mobility is derived from the relevant OECD and UNESCO statistics on student mobility, the EU statistics on the ERASMUS programme and an international survey of students interested in international mobility, commissioned by the DAAD.

Using the OECD and UNESCO data as a basis, it is possible to record and compare the incoming and outgoing flows of internationally mobile students for many countries. The comparison is mainly based on the OECD information on foreign students, i.e. those students who are not citizens of the host country. This data is unavailable for some countries, e.g. the USA. The figures for these countries relate to the students who had not been resident in the country concerned before enrolling on a course of study there.

The OECD and UNESCO data is constantly adjusted and is suitable and valid for international comparisons, even though not every country provides this data from its national statistics. In most cases, the figures on specific aspects and issues in the OECD database differ from the corresponding data found in a country's national statistics. For example, the OECD database generally shows the number of students in Germany to be higher than the figure recorded in Germany's official higher education statistics, because the ISCED classification attributes educational facilities to the higher education sector in the OECD statistics which the German Statistical Office attributes to the field of vocational training.

The data on German higher education institutions' Transnational Education Projects (TNE) abroad is based on information passed on to the DAAD by higher education institutions. The DAAD has an overview of and collects data on a large proportion of the German TEP provision through its funding programmes. Reference here is mainly to projects from the DAAD programme "Study provision of German higher education institutions abroad", which has been funded by BMBF funds since 2001. The data presented here thus comprises a large part, but not the whole, of German higher education institutions' TEP involvement.

Foreign staff at German higher education institutions and funded visits by German and foreign academics and researchers

Information on foreign staff at German higher education institutions is derived from the official higher education statistics, while information on funded temporary mobility of academics and researchers is taken from a survey of the relevant funding institutions.

Since 2006, the official statistics have, within the scope of the statistics on staff and human resources, reported the nationalities of academic and artistic staff working at German higher education institutions. Consequently, statements on the countries of origin of staff at higher education institutions in various status groups are possible. At present, this data is available for the years from 2006 to 2012. Since 2008, all federal states have been able to collect the relevant data in full.

The data and information available on temporary visits for research and teaching purposes by German academics and researchers abroad and foreign academics and researchers in Germany is still very incomplete and in need of expansion.

There is no organisation in Germany which centrally (i.e. at federal or state level) records and analyses data on the exchange of academics and researchers based on standardised criteria.

Of the numerous scientific and research organisations which specifically fund the mobility of academics and/or finance research under which such mobility takes place, not all have statistics which could serve as a basis for cross-institutional statistics. Many of these science and research organisations do record their funding recipients in a statistically detailed manner. However, the various institutions do not always record and format this data according to agreed cross-institutional definitions and classifications. This complicates the comparability of this data.

The DAAD and DZHW ask over 40 scientific and research organisations to provide data on an annual basis. A central core has now been formed, comprising over 30 organisations which provide data consistently every year. DZHW converts the data provided and classified by each of the institutions according to their individual systems into unified key categories. This means - as far as objectively justifiable - applying classifications used in the official higher education statistics to enable the data to be consolidated and analysed.

The data thus recorded provides information on only some of the academics' and researchers' mobility between Germany and other countries, although the proportion is not, to date, fully quantifiable. Overall, the exchange of academics and researchers is far more extensive and intensive than has been shown in this report. However, it has been possible to considerably expand the collection of data on funded visits by both German and foreign academics and researchers for 2012. This is mainly based on the DAAD's improved ability to record the data on academics and researchers funded by them. On the one hand, data on mobility in the context of funded projects is also recorded for the first time; on the other hand, data collection on individual funding could be expanded. The DFG also has the opportunity since 2012 to make statements on mobility in the context of the Excellence Initiative; this data for 2012 comprises estimates based on exchange figures determined for 2011. In addition, EU funding activities were also included for the first time; this data relates to German and foreign Marie Curie Scholarship holders. This expansion of the data collection basis makes it possible to produce a more comprehensive and precise image of funded German and foreign academics and researchers than ever before.

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