Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Studying in Germany - A Survey

Objective: As I got more and more queries about different universities in Germany, I realised that my perspective was necessarily restricted by my experience and that of my friends, most of whom belong to University of Stuttgart and RWTH Aachen. So I decided to create a survey form and send it to common forums to get some general feedback from people in different courses, living in different states.

Scope: The survey was designed w.r.t prospective students in mind and the questions they often ask - types of universities, application pre-requisites, course expenses, career prospects after graduation etc. The participants of the survey can choose to be anonymous and in keeping with this policy, no effort was made to verify the information they provided.

Design: The survey used Google forms and the questionnaire can be found here. Although google forms offers to generate the summary of responses, in cases of multiple options being available, the tool is not suitable and hence excel was used for certain calculations.

Statistical Significance: The results here are from 87 responses. Every effort was made to ensure that the distribution is not biased w.r.t the two universities listed above.

Summary of responses:
Since Europe in general (leaving out UK) and Germany, in particular, has become a popular destination for higher studies only in the last few years, it is of interest to know....how many people chose Germany as their first option, why and for what.


Application and Visa

Course Duration and Details
In general, a masters course will be 2 yrs or 4 semesters long. Some students take 2.5 years or 5 semesters to complete (based on intership and master thesis requirements). The survey confirms this fact since 80% of the participants completed the course in 2 years and 9% in 2.5 years.

Career Prospects after Graduation
The responses in the category "other" refer to those that are still studying. 5 participants answered this question with 'Don't know'. These responses were excluded from the statistics.


Living - Most popular states
For various reasons, Western Germany is generally preferred to Eastern Germany with Berlin being an exception (hasn't it always been one ?)

Studying Experience in Germany
Different questions were posed in this category. To avoid listing each of them, here is a summary of the salient points.
  • 83-87% of the participants agree that universities are well-equipped (infrastructure, research, lab etc.) and courses offered are well-planned (content, teaching etc.)
  • 69% of the people believe that cultural integration is a challenge while the remaining do not see it as one.
  • 79% agree that universities offer help in settling down (official formalities, accommodation etc.)
  • 87% believe that knowing German is important for studying in Germany.
  • Only 53% agree that getting visa extensions during the course of study is easy.

Job Market/Work Culture in Germany
As in the previous category, only the salient points are summarised.
  • 79-84% agree that job prospects in Germany are location-based (certain cities are better than other) and industry-based. They also agree that the work culture in Germany is good (colleagues, flexible working hours, vacation etc.)
  • 47% believe that the job market in Germany is stable
  • 66% agree that secure employment in Germany is a perk (clear contractual terms w.r.t working hours, notice period etc. , unemployment benefits)
  • 88% believe that knowing German is important to work in Germany.

Other comments:
I had asked participants to jot down any comments or suggestions that come to mind and below given is a summarised list.
  • When a student applies from India he/she does not know the difference between FH and TU. The former is called University of applied sciences and the latter is called Technical university or simply university. Only after studying in Germany one would realise that TU is more advanced in terms of academic research. After completing graduation in FH, if one wants to do a PhD in Germany he/she has to pass a lot of exams at that corresponding University to get an admission to PhD research.
  • Knowing German is even more important when working for consultants because of the documentation in German.
My comments:
  • In general, the results of the survey are as I expected. The only result that surprises me is that only 87-88% believe that knowing German is important. I was expecting it to be in the 95 plus scale.
  • W.r.t job market and financial stability, I believe Germany, Netherlands and France are reliable but since they often go to the rescue of other EU countries, their inland capital markets may suffer, albeit not to a disastrous extent, since they always have contingency measures to protect the common man.
  • Unemployment benefits are a boon, true. But one can avail them only on fulfilling certain conditions. For example, I should have worked for at least a year before I became unemployed and should have registered at the Arbeitsamt with all the necessary forms on or before the first day of my unemployment (In that case, one can get 60% of his/her net salary as an unemployment benefit. The period will be determined by how long one worked. More details here)
Above all, this survey is intended only to give an idea about what is more common and does not necessarily dictate the terms for everyone's tenure in Germany. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, keep an open mind, take initiative, learn German and not much can go wrong; if it does, it becomes a learning experience or at the least a blog post ;)

Acknowledgement:
I want to thank all the participants for taking time to complete the survey. I especially want to thank SK, a fellow blogger in Germany, who provided valuable input in creating the questionnaire.
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Website Hit Counter I had decided to have a counter only after I hit a 1000 views and since it happened last week (as on 14 Dec 2009), now is the time to see some stats :)