Interview Studies in Germany and India with the help of DAAD

Heike Mock
Heike Mock | Photo (detail): © Ulrike Putz

Heike Mock is regional office director of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in New Delhi. The 46-year-old studied German as a foreign language and business communication at the University of Jena in Germany. During a semester abroad in Cambridge and an internship at Skoda, Chechnya, she learned just how valuable experiences abroad can be for students. She has spent four years with DAAD in Vietnam and five years in China besides heading the South-East Asia Department in the Head Office in Bonn. She has been living in Delhi with her family for about a year.

Ms Mock, DAAD works globally to attract students to Germany, it grants scholarships and helps establish university collaborations. Has this work borne fruit in India?

Germany as a place to study is more popular in India today than ever before. Around 12,000 Indians are currently enrolled in German universities. This is a huge success because, in contrast to the US and Great Britain, we of course have a language barrier. Despite this, the number of Indian students in Germany is increasing by 20-25% a year. 
 
How do you explain this success?

Germany has an incredible amount to offer and this is reflected in the figures. Today, there are around 32,000 foreign students registered in Germany, that’s 12% of all students. In the US, there are only 100,000 foreign students, that’s only 4% of the total number. German universities have done a great deal to attract young talent to the country. They now offer 1,600 courses in English, they charge little or nothing by way of fees, the offices for international students help make the start in Germany an easy one. Even the state has eased the rules and regulations. A student who graduates from Germany today, is allowed to stay on in the country for 18 months and look for a job. 
 
How do you attract students to study in Germany?
 
We offer personal counselling in our offices but we also conduct webinars. These are seminars on the internet in which we explain all aspects of the study abroad programme. Once a month we invite students to the German House in Chanakyapuri for an information event – that in itself attracts around 200 interested individuals. We also advise many parents and try to quell their fears. After all, parents in India still exert considerable influence even on their college-going children.
 
What subjects do the young Indians going to Germany study? And vice versa?

 
54% of the Indians who go to Germany enrol for engineering; another 30% for science and mathematics. The gender ratio is pretty evenly balanced ­– as many young women go to Germany as do young men. The most important university for Indians in Germany is RWTH Aachen with 600 young people from the subcontinent. Funnily enough, Indians continue to go to Heidelberg to study Sanskrit at the world famous South Asia Institute.
The Germans come to India to attend lectures in economics but also to study science and engineering. The arts play no significant role.
 
What about university partnerships between Germany and India?
 
In 2009 we launched a new programme which we call the New Passage to India. Under the programme we would like to establish 50 new university partnerships. One Indian and one German university will initiate a student exchange programme, start joint projects and research, and exchange lecturers. India is a gigantic country with a gigantic youth population; it is an interesting market and is growing in strategic and geopolitical importance. Nevertheless, most people in Germany are still only interested in China, not in India. We want to change that. During the India-Germany government consultations in New Delhi in October, both countries again pledged a sum of EUR 3.5 million each towards developing university partnerships. 
 
What would you recommend to Indian students setting out for Germany?
 
They should be well prepared, something that is easier today than ever before. Many universities offer webinars to guide students through the first week in Germany even before their departure: How do I get from the airport to the student dorm? How do I open the necessary bank account? Where and when do I have to register at the university? 
 
And what should Germans pay attention to when coming to India?
 
I think one must give careful thought to what one would like to take home. How important is it that certificates are recognised? Would one like to get as many credits as possible or would one rather have a cultural experience? Other than that, for Delhi I would say: Yes, the air is bad. But that’s also the case in China and the whole world still wants to go to China.
 
DAAD promotes not only students but young researchers as well. Do German and other foreign universities compete with each other for the brightest minds?
 
That somebody refuses a scholarship from us because he has ultimately managed to get into Harvard has been known to happen. That’s a pity, but if the Ivy League is our competitor, we can live with it. What often happens is that students on our scholarships, who have done a PhD in Germany, are then recruited by MIT or Harvard for a postdoc. This is of course an enormous success for us.