Internationalisation of German Higher Education

A Case Study on the Opportunities and Threats of Internationalisation Processes at the University of Bielefeld

Master's Thesis, 2004

113 Pages, Grade: 1,3




1. Context
1.1 Definition of internationalisation
1.2 The Development of the Idea of Internationalisation in Higher Education

2. The Stakeholders

3. Global Trends

4. The Framework
4.1 Government Policies on Internationalisation
4.2 EU integration and harmonisation

5. The Competition
5.1 Players on the higher education market in Germany
5.2 A short look at the world market for higher education

6. The Actor
6.1 Institutional profile and local environment of the University of Bielefeld
6.2 Shaping strategy at the UoB

7. Organisational and Support Structures
7.1 Organisation and structures
7.2 Planning and evaluation
7.3 Financial support and resource allocation
7.4 Support services and facilities

8. Academic Programmes, Students and Research
8.1 Internationalisation of the curriculum and international research institutions
8.2 Domestic students
8.3 Foreign students
8.4 Research and scholarly collaboration

9. Conclusions and Recommendations summarized


Annex A: Tables

Annex B: Figures



Over the past ten years the number of foreign students studying at German universities has almost doubled. The short period of time between winter semester 2001/2002 and winter semester 2002/2003 showed again an increase of more than 10 % on average. Looking at the growth of the group of the Bildungsausländer[1] only (excluding foreign students having a German school diploma) the growth would have been even 14 % for the year 2002 (DAAD 2004b:8).

Yet the quantitative figures don’t tell much about the objectives, purposes and underlying strategies of internationalisation in German higher education, neither do they give any insight into the international developments that influence those strategies. There are only a few German universities that started to internationalize early and have an explicit international orientation and managed to attract large numbers of foreign students, researchers and international projects. Among them are a lot of smaller, often private universities (St Augustin 54%, Bruchsal 54 %, Germersheim 44 %) but also some renowned ones like the European University Viadrina (42%, all figures for 2000) and most of the technical universities (Munich, Berlin, Darmstadt, Hamburg, Aachen), which still have a count between 17 and 20% foreign students. (DAAD 2004b) These are brushing up the average figures in a way. Excluding the Bildungsausländer the vast majority of German universities is rather in the range below the average 8,4 % of foreign students (Bildungsinländer excluded, DAAD 2004b) or just at the average.

This study does not focus on the “powerhouses” of internationalisation – as some other studies do – but rather at the possibilities of an “average” university with up to now rather average numbers of foreign students and an average degree of overall internationalisation. The University of Bielefeld (in the following abbreviated as UoB) is taken as one example, of how internationalisation can be implemented, what the key processes of internationalisation are and which steps should be taken to foster internationalisation in the future.

The first part of this study is having a look at what internationalisation of universities is and how the idea has developed historically. It also describes, which general changes the internationalisation debate has undergone within the last years and which developments in internationalising universities have taken place.

The paper then in the second part describes the main stakeholders and their role in the internationalisation of higher education. The different interests of those stakeholders, influencing the internationalisation process, will be analysed.

In part three and four the key drivers of internationalisation for universities in general and German institutions of higher education in particular are identified. Therefore this paper outlines first the general global trends in higher education in part three and than focuses on specific German and European developments in part four. Special attention will be drawn on the legal changes in the German system of higher education and the EU-harmonisation process. In Chapter five the competitive forces like new market entrants and substitutes will be looked at. To reduce complexity of the study this part is emphasising the German situation and just slightly touching up on the international situation. A complete analysis should take the international situation into account.

The sixth part will describe the specific motivation for internationalisation at the UoB and sketch the environmental situation of the university like the history of the institution, geographical aspects, its profile etc. It then focuses on strategy formulated so far. Parts seven and eight examine the internationalisation efforts on the side of resource allocation (Chapter 7) and international programmes (chapter 8). Both parts will have a close look at certain areas of internationalisation of the UoB, on how internationalisation is implemented in the field of support structures, academic (exchange-) programmes and international exchange and cooperation in research. It describes the present situation, the weaknesses and strengths of these areas of internationalisation and how the university could develop from these prerequisites. The analysis of implementation of internationalisation on human resource level, thus how staff and administration is involved in the internationalisation process and which measures are taken to involve staff into the internationalisation process had to be left aside due to lack of data, but would have been desirable.

The last chapter tries to summarize the strengths and weaknesses of the internationalisation process at the UoB and to derive recommendations for a coherent future strategy of internationalisation. This part is opening perspectives for chances, but also tries to focus on the dangers for the UoB. Therefore in the preceding parts the internationalisation efforts and its effects will be analysed and compared to developments at other universities focussing especially on other universities in North Rhine Westphalia (NRW), but also worldwide.

Due to considerable different legislation in the German Länder and also worldwide concerning tuition fees, general financing, marketing etc., which build up the framework of internationalisation, the limitation to North Rhine Westphalian universities is justified – although where suitable, the general German and even international context will be taken into account. A detailed extension to the international situation is just randomly achieved, but a structured analysis of the international context taking more than general developments into account would have exceeded the limits of this study. Due to the authors strong personal commitment to the topic, range of the study has quantitatively gone far beyond planned scope anyhow, which gave more reason to limit the study to the situation in NRW. Further more access to financial data has been very limited, thus recommendations on this have to be taken with care. Finally, for some information the sources are undisclosed, while they base on interviews and internal university data. Nevertheless this is indicated e.g. by referring to them as internal data.

1. Context

1.1 Definition of internationalisation

There is no common definition of internationalisation. Maybe due to the inflationary use of different terms referring to the emerging “world society” during the past 10 years, the most frequent confusion is caused by the distinction between globalisation and internationalisation. Knight and de Wit (OECD/IMHE 1999:14) differentiate between globalisation and internationalisation with internationalisation being one of the responses to the impact of globalisation. This still being rather a definition of what internationalisation is not, Knight specified more precisely that very general notion. She is stressing its impact on “the national, sector, and institutional levels” and emphasising the ongoing nature of internationalisation “as the process of integrating an international, intercultural, or global dimension into the purpose, functions or delivery of postsecondary education” (Knight 2003)[2]. This definition, being a modified version of an earlier one dating back to the year 1997 (Knight 1997:8), was broadly used by many authors and even by most international organizations working in the field of education like the International Association of Universities (IAU), the OECD and the UNESCO. While Globalisation is a result of market forces and technology, internationalisation is – in its best interpretation – a pro-active strategy to deal with globalisation.

Internationalisation of higher education can be looked at from different perspectives, politically, economically, culturally and, of course, from an educational point of view. These viewpoints are not always congruent, often even conflicting. Further more internationalisation of higher education can be interpreted on different levels, the macro level, national and supra national, the meso level, the university and the micro level, the international classroom. (cf. Teekens 2000) On the different levels the impact of internationalisation might appear differently. In this study all these levels will be looked at, but the main focus will be on the meso level, thus the university itself.

1.2 The Development of the Idea of Internationalisation in Higher Education

Undoubtedly science has been “international” since it’s early beginnings as the first European universities have been in a true sense international – or at least “European” – since their early years. Hence there are some authors that take a contradictory stance on this and see internationalisation of higher education (HE) as a rather unique, new phenomenon, emphasising, that “At no time since the Middle Ages […] higher education [has] been more international in nature” (cf. Altbach 2001:5). But as an example, today’s discussions about a common language of science and its “Anglo-Americanisation” should remind us, that sciences were always using “international” languages, at times absolutely unequivocal common ones like Latin. Altbach (1999b:16) argues, that in the same extend Latin was replaced by national languages, universities got less international in their student bodies and orientation. The reciprocal conclusion could be true too: The more one language in science is used, the more international higher education gets.

The German system of higher education is deeply rooted in the 19th century. It is based on the Humboldt ideal of an independent research institution. With the ascent of the German language in the 19th century one doesn’t have to search for long to find many indicators for internationalisation of science – and of German science in particular – in that period. At the end of the 19th century more than 50% of all quotations in US-periodicals were in German (Ammon 1999:46), still in the 20ies of the 20th century more than 50% of the quoted literature in publications of chemistry was referring to German, another 10% to French and about 15% to English. (Ammon in: Hoberg 2002:140). The renewed “De-internationalisation” of higher education and science was thus rather an effect of world war II and the reciprocal boycott of British, French and German science during the war followed by the disregard of “eastern” respectively “western” science in the cold war period. Nevertheless the German academic exchange service DAAD was re-founded just a few years after the war in 1950 and almost all German universities have had since the late 50ies, beginning of the 60ies an International Office (Akademisches Auslandsamt, AAA). Latest since the end 60ies internationalisation took a new upswing. Thus, what’s new about internationalisation?

The interpretation of the term “internationalisation” Knight refers to is indeed a fairly new one, altering the aim of internationalisation from a rather implicit objective of universities and science to an explicit, strategy-bound goal. Internationalisation is no longer a purpose of science in itself, that is referring to the universality of “university”, but it is following economical and political guidelines with institutions of HE as suppliers of a certain good.

Enders characterises the present role of institutions of higher education as “multi-purpose or multiproduct institutions” (2002:2) that have certain functions in society. They “contribute to the generation and transmission of ideology, the selection and formation of elites, the social development and educational upgrading of societies, the production and application of knowledge and the training of the highly skilled labour force” (Enders 2002:2). Merely all these functions depend on the one base function already included above: The production and distribution of knowledge.

Although knowledge is the underlying principle, traditionally this good (“knowledge”) was rather neglected by society and the prime focus was on the other, secondary functions. As Peter Drucker (1994) points out, knowledge and people dealing with knowledge – in a broader sense – have just getting important in society in the course of the 20th century, and in a very fast move. “Knowledge workers, even though only a large minority of the work force, already give the emerging knowledge society its character, its leadership, its central challenges and its social profile. They may not be the ruling class of the knowledge society, but they already are its leading class.” (Drucker 1994) In our context, the conclusion Drucker derives from the emergence of the knowledge worker is of even greater importance. He states, that “In the first place, the knowledge worker gains access to work, job and social position through formal education.” (1994) Thus if it comes to knowledge the world society obviously has undergone changes in the last century, that directly affect universities as one of the most important providers of formal, postsecondary education and knowledge.

Altbach (1999:15) summarizes the task of modern universities in the knowledge society as being “the most important institution in the complex process of knowledge creation and distribution, serving as home not only to most of the basic sciences but also to the complex system of journals, books, and databases that communicate knowledge worldwide.” Additionally the emerging importance of knowledge and herewith that of universities is directly affected by several other changes, technical and political.

With the end of the cold war and the political changes of the end 80ies, beginning 90ies the exchange of knowledge has increased rapidly. As pointed out earlier, before 1990 the transfer of knowledge was limited mainly due to the political constellations. One important effect of the political changes in eastern Europe first of all was, that education markets in eastern Europe were starting to grow fast. The political upheaval was closely followed by economical changes, usually subsumed under the term “globalisation”. Besides, the speed of exchanging knowledge has increased significantly, mainly due to new, faster means of communication and knowledge exchange. This revolutionary process was mainly generated with the growing importance of the internet and the quick spread of knowledge through electronic data transfer. One example that illustrates the impact of the internet on science are scientific journals, that have centupled every few years from just 7 in 1991 to more than 6000 in 2002.[3] Peter Drucker thus anticipates in his speech at Harvard University about the knowledge society, what has been getting real just a few years later: “education will become the centre of the knowledge society and schooling its key institution.” (Drucker 1994).

2. The Stakeholders

Different stakeholders in the “production” of knowledge in higher education can be identified. Each stakeholder has its interest, costs and benefits in the internationalisation of the production of knowledge. Following, these interests will be characterised.

Governments are still in most countries of the world bearing the major financial risk of institutions of higher education. On the other hand economies as a whole might benefit from the “brain gain” through international students and researchers. Long lasting relationships between host and home country might have additional positive economic effects. A study undertaken in Britain in 1995 estimated, “that international students tuition fees and associated expenditure […] generated an excess of 1 billion £ a year in invisible exports” (Elliot 1998:41) Focusing on the impact internationalisation has on governmental decisions and society as a whole, David Throsby remarks: “The resources committed by sending countries to supporting their students in travelling abroad, and by host countries in providing tuition and other services for incoming students, all have opportunity costs to the respective national economies.” (1999:26). How Government policy influences the internationalisation strategy of the UoB will be discussed in detail in chapter four.

The interests of the institution itself (represented e.g. by the rectorate) as the second important stakeholder, might differ substantially from the government’s interests. Financially foreign students are an asset intellectually and a profitable source of income by charging tuition fees or gaining extra funds from the government or third-party institutions. Macroeconomic advantages as anticipated by governments are fairly unimportant to the individual institution. Much more important for them are funds, reputation, brain gain etc. One additional positive side effect usually not taken into account is, that foreigners stabilise variations in students intake and thus could lead to an efficient use of infrastructure and personnel. A steady number of students offers much more planning perspectives for the institution than variable numbers. (OECD 2004a: 294) German Universities however faced a rapid growth in foreign students in the last years usually without using them as a corrective for total students numbers. One of the reasons might be, that “Such processes presuppose some clear statement of institutional mission or objectives; decisions may then be evaluated in terms of their contribution to such objectives, both quantitative and qualitative, subject to financial constraints.” (Throsby 1999:25). Thus the study will have to focus in part six on the objectives and strategies of the UoB and analyse in the following parts, in which areas action has been taken or should be taken (e.g. whether an increase in foreign students or researchers or the encouragement of own staff and students to study abroad is beneficial for the institutions overall strategic goals and at what costs).

A third group having interests in the internationalisation of HE are the students, incoming as well as outgoing. Incoming students might choose for a certain institution abroad because of lack of opportunities in the home country, for financial reasons, reputation, likely higher incomes after graduation etc. Usually a study abroad incurs higher costs than in the home country, financially and socially. Thus benefit of a study abroad should be higher accordingly. Nevertheless lower tuition fees (or the absence of tuition fees) for instance might partly compensate for these costs. Throsby summarizes “Typically, the student contemplating study abroad will face decisions involving choices between different programs in different countries, where the basis for comparison may be a corresponding program at a domestic institution that does not involve foreign study at all.” (1999:24). How this stakeholder is influencing the university’s goals and objectives and which strategies the UoB has concerning this stakeholder will be analysed in chapter eight.

Other stakeholders identified are staff (as employees of the institutions). First of all any activity in internationalisation has budgetary consequences. Further more personnel must be assigned to implement internationalisation, allocate funds and so forth. “Hence, the appropriate mode of analysis at the system level is likely to be cost-effectiveness evaluation rather than conventional costbenefit analysis”, Throsby remarks on the financial effects of internationalisation. He describes the attitude, university staff usually treating internationalisation as being “concerned with the most efficient way of achieving certain administrative ends within an overall policy framework, where the benefits, to whomever they accrue, are taken as given”. (Throsby 1999:25).

A fifth stakeholder is rather indirectly benefiting from internationalisation. With decreasing public and increasing private funds, industry and business is getting an important player in internationalisation of higher education, as will be shown later. They benefit by using the brain force of university graduates on the one hand and the findings especially in research and development on the other hand. Their prime objective is to gain qualified staff. Qualification on a globalised market increasingly implies getting graduates with international experience.

All these stakeholders have particular influence on the internationalisation strategies of universities. Knight (1999:22) developed a model to differentiate the particular rationales of three out of these five stakeholders, the government, education and private sector. The model suits to identify the different weight of rationales of internationalisation for each stakeholder. Using her model, for the UoB and the German context these rationales presently could look like this:[4]

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source of base model Knight 1999:22, modified by author.

The weighting of rationales, being just a snapshot of the current situation, is of course subject to change. For instance, cultural and social issues have at times been much more important for the German government than economic rationales. On the other hand economic rationales in internationalisation have been negligible for the UoB for a long time and are still rather unimportant for the institution. However, with the changing government policy this is likely to change.

The factors are thus interdependent and at times even conflicting. Potential conflicts might especially arise from different academic and economic rationales. Especially interesting is, that the economic rationale is nowadays for all stakeholders central, but least important for the education sector itself as the one that has to implement internationalisation. Other stakeholders are thus likely to influence the education sector, i.e. the UoB on this issue.

Partly due to the growing influence of businesses and industry, which is often neglected (and not mentioned by Throsby either), universities world wide are subject to important changes in the education business. First major changes occurred since the late sixties, then gained momentum in the 80ies and are presently influencing the international debate on internationalisation. These changes can be subsumed under the terms massification, diversification, de-nationalisation, de-monopolisation and commercialisation of HE. At least the last three out of these five have in Germany just recently and substantially later than in many other countries gained importance.

3. Global Trends

Massification, diversification, de-nationalisation, de-monopolisation and commercialisation are the most important global trends in higher education. The most powerful trend among these influencing all the other trends in HE is the massification of higher education as it paved the path for the other trends. Universities are – latest since the late 60ies – no longer accessible for a small elite only, but for large parts of society. Altbach (cit. in Hahn 2004:27) forecasts for certain nations even a transition to societies with almost universal access to higher education. Accordingly in Germany the number of first year students rose form 28% of one year of school leavers in 1998 up to 32% in 2001. (OECD, Bildung auf einen Blick cit. in: BMBF/KMK 2003:4) Nevertheless that is still far below the OECD average of 47% of school leavers in HE. Countries like New Zealand already have 76% of one year of school leavers enrolled in higher education, Finland 72 % and Sweden 69 %. (OECD, Bildung auf einen Blick cit. in: BMBF/KMK 2003:4). But the percentage of population educated in tertiary education is likely to rise in Germany further, although this requires some major changes on the pre-tertiary education levels, too.

Despite constraints on pre-tertiary level, which hampered an equally rapid development as in other OECD countries, German higher education followed the trend of massification of higher education like almost all other developed nations. But especially in the German context recently a stagnating and even reverse trend in absolute figures should be taken into account. While in the OECD-countries the number of students increased between 1995 und 2002 by an average of 40% (certain countries like Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Island, Korea and Poland even 50%), Austria, Germany und France were the only countries where the number of students stagnated or even declined (OECD 2004b:3). Though the percentage of students enrolling might further increase, its absolute figures are decreasing and are going to decrease even more sharply in the coming years. The German Kultusministerkonferenz projects a plunge in the absolute numbers of students of up to 40% for the east German Länder (Mecklenburg West-Pomerania -40,8%, Saxony-Anhalt -34,2%, Saxony -30,4, Brandenburg -27,8) between the year 2000 and 2020. (IWD 2004/23:7, database for projection: KMK 2003)

Nevertheless, according to these projections, Rhineland-Palatinate, Hamburg and especially North Rhine Westphalia will still gain even more students, with the latter being the one that gains the highest percentage among the German Länder (+14%). Thus first of all massification will at NRW-Universities continue and North Rhine Westphalian universities like the UoB will have to react on internationalisation differently than e.g. most East German universities. While because of shrinking student numbers in other parts of Germany universities will try to compensate students losses by taking more foreigners in, the UoB could afford to be highly selective on foreigners (and German students) admitted.

As already pointed out earlier, the rapid increase of students in other OECD-countries and the projected decline of students in Germany bears some additional potential for internationalisation of German Universities in general to counterbalance these quantitative changes. But considering the projections for NRW and anticipating that the UoB will have its share in that growth, an uncontrolled, massive increase of foreign undergraduate students is not desirable for the UoB, as will be argued later in this study.

One effect of massification of universities is the diversification of education, on the one hand in the sense, that subjects are getting more diverse and splitting up subsequently into highly specialized sub-fields. On the other hand the kind of institutions and their profiles are getting more and more differentiated, too. This opens space for a clear cut differentiation e.g. into institutions, which mainly teach while others that put all their energy into research or focus on post graduate studies. It also leads to the emergence of very specialised study and research programmes, which might even have a worldwide unique focus. This opens opportunities for programmes that even have other ends than purely educational and scientific. And last but not least diversification will lead to the need for interdisciplinary re-coordination of highly specialised subfields. How the UoB should utilise these trends will be analysed in chapter eight.

In the end massification opens many new opportunities for new players differing from traditional universities, on an education market serving different needs than the traditional ones, with programmes differing from traditional higher education. One step to foster the de-monopolisation of public tertiary education is the establishment of the legal and financial prerequisites first. While de-monopolisation is strongly bound to government policies, this trend will be addressed in the next chapter. Commercialisation of HE market will be addressed in the chapter five on competition.

4. The Framework

The internationalisation process of German universities is influenced by five main determinants, that have gained importance in recent years or are still about to get importance. These five main determinants can be identified as

1) the progressive EU integration process in higher education since the 1970ies, getting even more dynamic in the 90ies with the Maastricht Treaty and the Bologna Declaration
2) the declining (now slowly growing) government expenditures for higher education (with rising numbers of students at the same time) since the mid 1990ies and consecutive reforms in the German HE system
3) the rapid growth of education markets in Central and Eastern Europe since the beginning of the 90ies through political changes in eastern Europe and the upswing of Asia a few years later due to economic changes in Asia, followed by a rapid increase of demand for education, that couldn’t sufficiently be met by the domestic markets
4) the rapid emergence of off-shore, e-learning and internet universities, partly in conjunction with the expansion of part time programmes and distance learning
5) the continuous globalisation and commercialisation of education especially in the USA, Australia and several other countries, which lead to the tendency, that education is getting a marketable and tradable good worldwide and universities are analogues facing more competition – if not for the funding so at least for their “clients”.

Most of these factors, that have gained importance very quickly in the 1990ies, have influenced the debate on internationalisation substantially and are since the beginning of the millennium evoking radical changes towards internationalisation. These factors will be examined more closely in this chapter.

4.1 Government Policies on Internationalisation

In Germany public universities had for a long time almost a monopoly on higher education. There were just a few private universities, public universities are still largely state funded and in the course of the 60ies and 70ies a lot of new public universities were founded, among them the UoB. Still in the year 2000 German universities are by a 91,8 % state funded. (OECD 2003, figures 2000, cf. Table I)[5] Internationally this is a quite high figure, although there are some European countries like Austria even exceeding this percentage.

After a massive retreat of German government from higher education in the 90ies, the government expenditure on tertiary education again rose to 1,1% of total GDP which is still below the OECD countries’ mean of 1,2%. (OECD 2003) Looking at the expenditure on tertiary education as a percentage of total public expenditure, Germany spends just 2,4% of its government expenditure on higher education, the OECD mean is 2,9%. For the US this amounts to 3,5%, Denmark 4,6%, Norway 4,1%, Australia 3,2% and Canada 4,7% (OECD 2003, figures for the year 2000, cf. table II). Additionally almost all countries with high public expenditure on tertiary education have a high level of private expenditure in tertiary education, too – with those having both high levels of public and private expenditure having very internationalised markets for higher education (e.g. US, Canada, Australia). One could go much deeper into these figures, but due to the abundance of these macroeconomic data an in depth analysis has to be left aside in this study.[6] In general it should be noted, that government expenditure as well as private expenditure on higher education in Germany is well below OECD average. Subsequently just a few figures are given to illustrate this.

Korea as an example might be the only country where private funds in education almost match public funds (43% of total expenditure for education from private sources, in the US it still amounts for one third (OECD 2004a: 230)). In higher education only the private efforts even amount to over three quarters, while in Germany private funding amounts for less then 10 % of total funds. According to the latest issue of the OECD education report published in September 2004 in most OECD countries, household expenditure for tuition fees amount for the biggest share of private funding. (OECD 2004a:236) In Australia, Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom, the share of private funding in higher education ranges between 35,4% (Australia) and 58,0% (Japan). (OECD 2003)

Though legislation seems to be a national issue first, it has a great impact on internationalisation in Germany and is to a large extend responsible for the lagging behind of the German HE system. The financial and legislative sovereignty of higher education is usually located at the German Länder, but coordinated by the national Higher Education Framework Act (Hochschulrahmengesetz). In the year 2000 86% of all HE funding was distributed regionally through the Länder (OECD 2003). Paradoxically the decision-making-process on how the money will be accounted for is limited to the universities themselves. On the other hand the universities have just little control on how budgets are distributed, because budgeting is highly bound to specific purposes. Autonomy on redistribution of budgets according to the needs of the institution is thus very limited. Especially there is little influence on how funds are re-distributed if the government has to cut on budgets or changes priorities in funding.

Due to this so called Kameralistik (government accounting) universities tend to “hide” variable costs and investments to “shift” them into budgeting for fixed costs (like personnel costs, which can secure budgets because of longer term labour contracts). This is especially the case if government funds stagnate, decline or are subject to budget freeze. Processes like these make the planning in general, as for internationalisation in particular very difficult. Because budgeting is solely based on last years figures, it is not flexible enough to react on new trends in the industry and there are no incentives for the institution to gain additional funds e.g. by internationalisation. The reform of HE finance has thus inevitably to precede sustainable internationalisation processes.

The keys to reform the financing of universities are block grants, formula-based funding or contract-based funding and to a certain extend tuition / registration fees, which were introduced in most European countries in the 80ies and 90ies. (cf. Eurydice 2000b:9f) Still in 2000 the Eurydice-Report concludes on the effects of these measures in the EU countries and the German efforts in particular:

Institutional enterprise and competition were further promoted by imposing the need to seek an increasing proportion of higher education finance through contract-based funding, whereby institutions, in addition to providing research, also offered their teaching expertise for a fee according to market/client needs. This phenomenon was evident in all countries excluding Germany. [sic!]

General legislation to liberalise the market of higher education in Germany was amended later than in many other European countries and reforms were starting comparatively late. Laws on Internationalisation were passed in 1996 and 1998, reforms on quality control were introduced at about the same time (cf. Eurydice 2002a: 21ff, Table III). Nevertheless in the year 2000 Germany was the only European country where block grants were not yet introduced and where no contract based funding existed. While most European counties introduced block grants and contract based funding of universities in the eighties or even earlier (Eurydice 2002b:11), Germany set the stage for block funding of universities as late as in 1998.

The UoB entered the stage of increased autonomy just recently – but still earlier than most other NRW universities. Since the year 2004 Universities in NRW have the legal possibility to receive block grants. So far only 2 universities out of 15 and 2 Fachhochschulen (a kind of technical college, cf. chapter 5) out of 12 are receiving block grants. The UoB is among those four and taking part in the pilot project to introduce block funding since 2004.[7] Thus in the year 2004 the UoB is one of the few Universities in NRW, that receive block grants, that is subject to contract based funding – and one of the two in NRW that could increase their overall budget in 2003.

The main effect of increased autonomy, the Eurydice Report concludes, is the move away from the ‘interventionary state’ towards a more ‘facilitatory state’” (Eurydice 2000:19) On the side of the universities the increased autonomy “has often entailed the releasing of higher education institutions from detailed control through legislation by giving them the right to pass their own statutes in the broadening area over which they have autonomy”. (Eurydice 2000:19)

Another area where changes have happened and even more changes are expected to happen is the introduction of tuition fess. In general for a long period of time Germany was reluctant to introduce tuition fees at German universities at all. At least a number of European countries charges fees since a long time (e.g. Belgium, Spain, France). Many others introduced fees in the course of the 90ies (Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Great Britain). In 1996, only two of the German Länder (Baden-Württemberg, Berlin) had introduced registration fees. Since 1997 in Baden-Württemberg those students extending the standard period of study by 2 years have to pay tuition fees. Though in the majority of the Länder studies are still free of charge and general tuition or registration fees are even prohibited country wide and just limited to such “excess fees”, the idea of tuition fees is getting more and more popular in Germany.

North Rhine Westphalia introduced these “excess” fees in 2003/2004, which not only lead to a sharp decline of German students – some universities faced students losses of 20 to 30% – but also among foreign students, usually in the same order of magnitude. At the UoB these losses amounted roughly to a minus of 4,4%[8] in the number of foreign students. This was thus considerably lower than at many other NRW universities. While general tuition fees are still prohibited, the universities’ ability to charge foreign students and researchers for their services are – apart from the excess fees – limited to non educational services like housing and insurance packages and only partly language courses and graduate studies. For the UoB this means, that international students are no source of revenue, other sources of revenue like grants not considered. Internationally it is for the UoB rather an cost advantage to attract students and was sometimes communicated in past years as being one of the important rationales for foreign students to study in Germany. Nevertheless once the university receives block grants foreign students are getting a cost factor for the university and budgets for internationalisation are competing with other budgetary fields. On the other hand considering the present political debate the ban of tuition fees is very likely to vanish in the near future.

To sketch the present situation in an European context, the Eurydice-Report concludes: “Germany, Spain and France stand out as different from the other countries […] due to the lack of major legislation on autonomy in higher education after the early 1980s.” (cf. Eurydice 2002: 31). The report continues: “In Germany, there has been […] little direct legislation, apart from the 1985 amendments to the 1976 Higher Education Framework Act. [...] the constitutional guarantee of academic freedom meant that the Federal Government had relatively little influence over the administration of higher education institutions during the 1980s”. (cf. Eurydice 2002: 32). As pointed out earlier, just recently this is changing.

One can already denote at this point, that the UoB is one of the universities in NRW that is picking up these changes on financial autonomy faster than others. The UoB thus shows a rather proactive attitude toward those reforms. Nevertheless the UoB is at risk taking part as one of the first universities getting more autonomy, because these reforms incure more responsibility and thus more dangers for the UoB. But as late comers in an international context, this risk is relatively low for German universities in general, and from the experience in other countries the UoB can rather benefit than that financial autonomy is threatening. Insecure legislative situations rather hamper(ed) the development in past years, thus the move to create more stable legislative conditions that open opportunities for long term planning is rather positive. For internationalisation the autonomy of institutions of HE opens new possibilities to allocate funds for internationalisation – if this was one of the objectives of the university. Being the first in this development can under the given conditions only be advantageous.

4.2 EU integration and harmonisation

The power of the EU in internationalisation processes has long been underestimated – maybe even by the EU institutions themselves.

Ironically, the conflicts on the part of the European commission to extend constantly its territory of action and the national governments aiming to keep the European commission out of the core of HE […] eventually triggered of a policy of reinforcing grass roots internationalization. Facilitating student mobility became the key instrument for the internationalization of HE,

Teichler (1998:88f) comments on the EU’s role in internationalisation. Indeed, during the past 30 years the driving force for internationalisation of higher education in Europe has been the implementation of various EU-programmes, accompanied by national policies reflecting EU policy to foster academic mobility, exchange and languages on an European level. In 1976 The EU started with an initial Joint Study Programme followed by several other programmes, that encouraged exchange of students and scientists mainly within Europe. First among these was the ERASMUS-Programme in 1987, followed in the 1990ies by LINGUA (advancement of Languages), COMETT (Cooperation between education and companies) and SOKRATES (following ERASMUS and LINGUA), and TEMPUS (Cooperation with central and eastern Europe). Though the legislative competencies of the EU in the area of education were and are still quite limited, these programmes had a substantial impact on the “Europeanization” of universities. Even if the main purpose of the most of theses EU-programmes was first of all to increase mobility of students, teachers and scientists within Europe, rather than “internationalisation” in the strict sense (as an aim in itself), one side effect was of course the de facto growing importance of internationalisation.

Analysing the effects of the EU programmes in universities, Teichler (1998:93) notes, that, although the aim of the EU-programmes was rather “Europeanization” than internationalisation, only a few departments focussed on the EU, almost all saw ERASMUS as a tool to internationalise instead of just fostering EU-integration. Programmes of regional studies were sometimes exclusively focusing on the EU or EU member states. All other programmes were broader in scope. (Teichler 1998:93)

Recently an even bigger step for German universities has followed the EU mobility and exchange programmes, which in a rather quantitative manner tried to increase international contacts within Europe. While the mobility programmes increased the number of foreign students and scientists at European universities, the harmonisation of the European space of higher education in adopting the Bologna Treaty 1999 has added a qualitative feature to these efforts. Main changes through the Bologna process are the introduction of the European Credit Transfer system and the introduction of a comparable degree and diploma system, the BA/MA/PhD three-step-system. Until the enforcement of change through the BA/MA system, the higher education system and especially study phases and German degrees were rather incompatible with international standards. The experts council (Expertenrat), which advised the Land North Rhine Westphalia on implementing the Quality assurance pact, therefore recommended to ease the compatibility of the German system of higher education.(Expertenrat 2001b).

The Land North Rhine Westphalia, whereas the UoB is located, has reacted on the challenges of Bologna much faster than most of the other German Länder and is, as the Minister of education of NRW Hannelore Kraft has noted recently, at the “forefront” of the changes to the BA/MA-system in Germany.[9] It followed the recommendations of an independent experts council on HE reforms, the Expertenrat to transform to the BA/MA-system rather fast. There are, according to Kraft, already 512 Bachelor and Master courses in NRW summing up to 22% of all studies. This is much more than in most of the other German Länder.

Additionally, the University of Bielefeld is within NRW taking part in a project introducing the BA/MA structure even faster than the other NRW universities (together with the University of Bochum). It has transferred all teachers training studies into the BA/MA system already.[10] Further more the UoB as early as in 1994 participated in a field study at the faculty of history in the ECTS-programme and was since then extending the ECTS to other faculties.

The effects of all these changes are fundamentally changing the German system of higher education and have great effects on the internationalisation of the UoB. Tauch notes, that not the reform itself is the prime focus of the reforms, but “most higher education institutions indicate the need to internationalise themselves (and not the need to reform the curricula or to shorten the duration of studies) as their prime motive for the reform.” (2002:13)

It is worth noting, that these were by far not the only changes that have a great effect on internationalisation. Worthwhile mentioning is e.g the Diploma supplement, which provides a common interface for the description of different diploma in different countries. Nevertheless the description so far should be sufficient to sketch the present development and the UoB’s role in there.

5. The Competition

5.1 Players on the higher education market in Germany

The more science and knowledge are getting universal goods, the less important scientific needs get and the more importance economical needs gain in higher education. Education is seen much more as an international market than still a decade ago with an estimated total market volume of about 3 Trillion US $. (Hahn 2004:28) Higher education has the largest share in this sum. With reforms taking place, higher education is de-monopolised and diversified, creating space for new market entrants, private initiatives to enter the education market and a reorientation of “old” market participants. Further more other forms of higher education emerge, that substitute for the traditional type of university education.

Entry barriers to enter the market of higher education were in the first post war decades quite high. Higher education is cost intensive – and costs for public HE institutions were generally to a large extend covered by the government. As illustrated in the previous chapter the government funding till recently was not much bound to performance. Legal aspects left aside, there might have been even no need or at least a high competitive disadvantage for private investors to invest into higher education.

The first new entrants departed thus from the public funding model and date back to the 70ies, when the so called Fachhochschulen were founded. The Fachhochschulen have a much more practical approach, a stricter study programme and are known for their more pre-structured and therefore often faster study programmes. Although having a smaller percentage of foreign students many of these technical colleges were the first ones to internationalise their curriculum in the 90ies introducing more international curricula. Presently there are 234 international study programmes at the German Fachhochschulen, but only 193 at the universities (given the fact that the total number of study programmes at the Fachhochschulen account for less than a quarter of all programmes). (cf. Hochschulkompass, 10.09.2004) Further more the Fachhochschulen introduced the international Bachelor and Master Diploma (cf. Chapter four) significantly earlier than most universities. Presently 72 % of the students enrol at universities, 28 % at the Fachhochschulen, nevertheless one finds only 69% at the universities and 31% of the bachelor students at the Fachhochschulen, in master studies 66% and 34% respectively (Schwarz-Hahn 2003:24f). Projections of the Kultusministerkonferenz show, that the share of the Fachhochschulen among all first year students will rise from 30,3% to about 33% in the year 2020 and the market share of the universities will decline correspondingly (KMK 2003:30, cf. Table IV and V).


[1] The term „Bildungsausländer“ is in German used for those students, that have a foreign citizenship and were not trained within the German education system. This term is distinguished from the “Bildungsinländer”, foreign students, that were educated within the German education system. Due to the German immigration laws (the so called “ius sanguinis”) the number of the Bildungsinländer is considerably high.

[2] Internet sources are only quoted with page numbers, if available in a portable document format.

[3] Press release of the “International Conference on Scientific Electronic Publishing in Developing Countries” 2002. (12.09.2004). The given figures might be even a very conservative estimate. Since the turn of the millennium one can observe a real boost in online publishing and professionalisation, and although just a small portion of all scientific journals is published exclusively online, availability and speed of dissemination of scientific articles is increasing rapidly.

[4] Knight just uses an empty model chart, explaining the use of the chart as follows: ”These cells of the chart have not been filled in as the importance attributed to the various rationales differs from country to country or even institution to institution. Therefore, there is not one universal or ‘right’ chart. The purpose of including the framework is […] to help analyse the stakeholder perspectives affecting their institution or system and to identify similarities, differences and potential areas of conflict among the stakeholders.” (Knight 1999:22) Accordingly my chart does not reflect on the desirable rationales but the present rationales.

[5] The OECD-report 2004 was published on 14th September 2004 just before finishing this paper and will therefore just randomly be taken into account in this study.

[6] For an in depth review and the most recent figures cf. OECD 2004: Education at a Glance 2004. Paris: OECD.

[7] The introduction of block grants was originally scheduled by the ministry of education for 2003 but postponed for technical reasons.

[8] Winter term 2003/04 to summer term 2004, internal University statistics.

[9] Kraft, Hannelore, Minster of education NRW: Informationsveranstaltung der Landesvereinigung der Arbeitgeberverbände NRW zur Internationalisierung der Hochschulen/Neustrukturierung der Studiengänge. Düsseldorf 23.01.2004. (01.07.2004)

[10] A detailed documentation on the introduction of the BA/MA system can be found on (19.09.2004)

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Internationalisation of German Higher Education
A Case Study on the Opportunities and Threats of Internationalisation Processes at the University of Bielefeld
European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder)
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