Germany is one of the top places in the world for research and academic training. This is symbolised by the fact that with more than 80 awards, Germany places third among the nations with the most Nobel laureates. In a globalised world in which knowledge is regarded as the most important resource, the country, with its long-standing tradition of research and development, is well positioned in the international competition for the best minds. Three major aspects shape this vibrant hub of knowledge: the dense network of around 400 higher education institutions, the four internationally renowned non-university research organisations, and strong industrial research. The country has its impressive research achievements to thank for the fact that with 12 percent of global trade volume, Germany is the world’s leading exporter of high-tech goods and in the European Union (EU) is assured a firm place in the group of innovation leaders. Internationally, Germany is in the top group of those few countries to invest more than 2.5 percent of their gross domestic product in research and development.
With numerous measures and reforms, the government and higher education institutions took the initiative to advance Germany as a hub of knowledge and place it on a more international footing. The Qualification Initiative adopted in 2008 offers lifelong training programmes, formed part of this. Other success stories include the Excellence Initiative, which has spawned a number of internationally oriented graduate schools and clusters of excellence, the Higher Education Pact 2020, the High-Tech Strategy, the Research and Innovation Pact, and the Strategy for the Internationalisation of Science and Research. As Europe’s biggest research nation, in 2014 Germany was the first EU Member State to formulate a strategy for further shaping the European Research Area (ERA).
Particular attention is paid to an international focus. As part of the Bologna Process, most higher education courses now lead to Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, with many of them offered in a foreign language. For international students Germany is already the most popular country to study in after the USA and Great Britain. At 30 percent, the proportion of students from Germany who spend time studying abroad is high. The number of international members of staff at higher education institutions also rose by about two thirds in the last decade, and stands at 10 percent. Many German higher education institutions are involved in the “export” of degree courses and the establishment of higher education institutions based on the German model in the international education market. In comparison with other countries, the German education system is in principle relatively well adapted to the needs of the labour market. 86 percent of adults in Germany have a university entrance qualification or successfully completed vocational training. The OECD average is only 75 percent.