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Studying abroad IW News 26. January 2017

A European success story

Thanks to Bologna and Erasmus: The number of German students abroad has more than tripled since the 1990s, reports the German Federal Statistical Office today. Studying abroad improves job opportunities and strengthens the interest in Europe. The Brexit, however, partly questions this exchange.

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In 1994 - well before the Bologna reform of the year 1999 - 40,000 young Germans studied abroad, in 2014 there were 137,300 - more than three times as many. The number of students abroad has thus developed much more dynamically than the total number of students: in 2014, for every 1000 German students registered at domestic universities there were 58 studying at foreign universities - twenty years ago there were only 23.

Most of the students abroad seek a degree there. Thanks to Bologna, a German Bachelor can be combined with a foreign master - a path that almost every fifth German student now decides to take. Eight out of ten German foreign students choose a European country. This preference is supported not least by the Erasmus program of the European Union, which has now existed for 30 years and has been operating under the name "Erasmus+" since the reform in 2014. A study commissioned by the EU Commission shows that mobility, in addition to better recruitment opportunities, also helps to develop a European perspective beyond the national horizon. More than 80 percent of European Erasmus students confirm this aspect. Almost all of the approximately 20,000 respondents from more than 30 European countries want a professional activity in an international context. Not least for the export-strong German economy, this is a good news against the background of isolationist movements.

After Brexit, however, this openness is called into question. The participation in the Erasmus program will end, if the UK limits the free movement of people. This applies not only to the approximately 15,000 British who study with Erasmus in Europe every year, but also to the approximately 5,500 Germans and the 23,000 other Europeans, who avoid paying the high study fees in the UK thanks to the Erasmus program. "We will continue to attract the brightest and the best to work or study in Britain," Theresa May said in her most recent government statement on Brexit. How this is to be organized in detail, however, is still left open. Meanwhile, 69 per cent of the British were in favor of a continuation of the international student exchange program. All EU member states should thus actively participate in the exit negotiations and work towards a solution, which enables young people to continue to study all over Europe.

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