Survey: International students in Munich
Enjoying their studies despite language and housing challenges
Munich has emerged as a popular international venue for higher education. More than 15,000 foreign students are enrolled at the city's universities. The Department of Labor and Economic Development has now published a study of this population based on a survey of foreign students in Munich in the winter semester 2014/15.
Plans and challenges
The aim was to find out whether visiting students plan to complete their studies here and then seek employment in Munich as qualified experts and professionals. 874 students from Ludwig Maximilians University (LMU), the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the Munich University of Applied Sciences (MUAS) took part in the online survey.
The results show that the majority of international students here are keen to stay on and find work in Munich. As well as being very happy with their academic studies, two thirds of the respondents cited the positive image of German and Munich-based universities as a motive for studying here. Low study fees compared to other international venues are another frequently mentioned factor.
Support for international specialists
Overseen by the Munich Employment and Qualification Program (MBQ), the AMIGA project (“Active Migrants in the Local Labor Market”) has been helping qualified migrants in Munich to become integrated in the labor market since 2013. This new survey now provides additional data to align local government offerings more closely with the needs of the international student target group, with a view to recruiting and retaining them for the Munich labor market.
Together with the Munich Business Start-Up Office (MEB) and the Department of Public Order (KVR), the AMIGA project provides seminars for international students on how to become self-employed and how to obtain residence and work permits. It also organizes job fairs. → AMIGA events
Summarized findings of the study
Students' countries of origin
These countries are followed by the Russian Federation (5.1%), Bulgaria (4.1%), the USA (3.6%), Colombia (3.3%) and France (3.2%)
Reasons for the choice of study location
(percentage of mentions by international students)
65.8% Image of German universities
57.8% Desire to gather international experience
51.4% Desire to improve career prospects
49.5% Study costs
49.2% Prospects of a good job in Germany
40.8% Existing knowledge of German
21.2% Limited career prospects in the student's home country
Overall, international students are very happy with their studies in Munich. The majority give a rating of “good” to the content, methodological and organizational quality of their studies. Given the chance, most would again opt to study the subject of their choice at the same university in Munich.
Life in Munich
Students gave extremely positive responses to the following statements about life in Munich:
91.7% On the whole, I am happy with my life in Munich.
86.1% I feel welcome in Munich.
97.6% I feel safe in Munich.
83.7% I find Munich to be a tolerant city.
92.2% Munich is a very attractive city.
82.4% Life in Munich is far too expensive.
Desire to stay
The majority of respondents (92.1%) would like to complete their studies and, for example, earn a bachelor's or master's degree in Munich. A good half of the respondents (52.6%) is considering staying in Munich. Good employment prospects, high incomes levels and the high quality of life in Munich are major factors of influence on this score.
Family reasons or plans that existed before students arrived in Munich are the most frequently cited reasons for international students wanting to leave Munich again. At the same time, difficulties on the Munich housing market and the high cost of living are also powerful arguments why many do not want to stay here.
International students in Munich live in the following forms of accommodation:
37% Students' residence
27.7% Own accommodation
25.4% Shared apartment
The following percentage of students cited these sources of funding:
61.9% Financial support from parents
27.5% Employment in a field related to studies
15.4% Scholarship from another country
13.7% Employment in a field not related to studies
8.6% Scholarship from Germany
8.3% Paid internships
1.9% BAFÖG (German student grant)
Difficulties getting started
Where problems were encountered, these were the ones most frequently mentioned:
64.6% Finding an apartment in Munich
46.8% Establishing contact with German students
43.1% Getting used to a different system of learning
40.5% Difficulties with the German language
These were followed by problems understanding the Bavarian dialect (27.3%), financial problems (24.4%), a different culture (15.9%) and problems with the university administration (15.4%).
Information, language, housing
The survey shows Munich international students mostly upbeat about their opportunities on the Munich labor market. One sixth of the respondents plan to go self-employed or work as freelancers.
Many students would like more information about starting their own business. Strong demand also exists for information about the legal conditions with regard to staying on in Germany after completing study courses.
In a number of areas, respondents from Asia and Africa encounter difficulties more frequently than the other respondents. Less of these students have a good command of German. They more often encounter problems establishing contact with German students and more rarely have German friends than is the case for other students. Yet despite these difficulties, many still want to stay in Munich after their studies.
The respondents' answers also show that many international students experience problems accessing the Munich labor market because their knowledge of German is inadequate. Since some of their courses are taught in English, some students see less reason to learn German immediately. For many employers, however, a good command of German is a precondition for employment. International students should be told this at an early stage, and a broader selection of courses catering to their needs is also required.
In Munich, one of the biggest problems for international students is the fraught housing market. In the worst cases, some people are unable to even begin their studies here because they cannot find anywhere to live. The local government is therefore working hard to make more accommodation available to students in general, and also to provide options that specifically target international students.
The City of Munich and the local economy have a keen interest in ensuring that as many as possible of the foreign students who come to Munich stay here after completing their studies - to form a highly qualified labor pool, or to start their own businesses.