New Europe-based weblog Escape Indifference has an interesting post on higher education in Germany called Not welcome in Germany. Chris Osman, the author of the weblog, is a student at a German university. In his post he compares German universities with their American counterparts and finds the Unis lacking in both quality and openness. He is really rather nice about it, attributing it all to lower budgets:
German Universities rank pretty low on the world university ranking list. There is a reason for that. One benefit of studying in Germany is that the price of the education is relatively cheap. To be sure Iâ€™m paying less than $1,000 a semester, and that is being an international student. However, after diving into the program it becomes apparent that this does have a price. The universities just do not have any money to put toward its institutions and finding good professors. Furthermore students do not have easy access to print services, good literature, or even to the professors themselves.
I do not know if this is true for all German universities, but I was struck by another comment he made on the mentality of the German students themselves:
If you have ever attempted to attend a lecture, you are met with many distractions such as people talking, walking in and out constantly, as well as being called a â€œStreberâ€ if you show any remote interest in a subject. In fact, I can readily compare it to the attitude that is found through American High Schools, which makes the price of the education a probable reason for this.
Funny enough, I noticed the very same thing when I was studying in Belgium. My first year in higher education was eerily similar to my years in a Belgian high school. The front rows of the classes were occupied by students who were considered by the rest to be “Strebers”. In the back rows you found the “tourists”, students who tended to disappear after the first year. Much of this had to do with the fact that higher education in Belgium, as in Germany, is relatively cheap compared to other countries, allowing a great number of students to “travel around” a bit and try out different schools.
Even so, after the “weeding” of the first year, with drop-out rates of sometimes seventy percent or more, those who made it through the selections were in my experience definitely motivated to get a degree. So maybe Chris is just experiencing a bout of first-year tourism. He did not mention what year he is in.
What I found more disturbing was his following comment:
Additionally, German attitudes toward international students is very standoffish and unforgiving. Germany is ranked very low in terms of what they call â€œIntegrationspolitikâ€ and the classroom is a direct representation of that.
followed by some comments from fellow expat-students along the lines of
â€œIf they were in my country, we would show them the excitement of being new and foreign, and would attempt to make them feel at home. I just donâ€™t feel at home here.â€
When I was a student foreigners were not a problem at all. But maybe that is because I was at a school for translators and interpreters. On top of that the Erasmus Programme, which brought in most of the foreign students at our school, was still new and exciting. I was an Erasmus student myself and I still have fond memories of my stint at Hull University in England.
So, here is my question to our readers. What is your experience, if you have one, as a foreign student at a European university? Do you find the quality of education, compared to your own country, satisfying? And how do you feel about the integration of foreign students abroad? Secondly, for our German readers or people like Chris who are studying or have studied in Germany, can you corroborate Chris’ experiences? It would be nice to get a bit of a general idea, or at least a debate, about education in Europe.