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International students in higher education: Intentions to leave the host country after graduation

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Regionale Mobilität und Hochschulbildung

Part of the book series: Higher Education Research and Science Studies ((HERSS))


In the light of an increasing need for skilled labor in Germany, this paper examines whether international students with third-country citizenship (non-EU/EFTA) differ from students with EU/EFTA citizenship in their intentions to leave Germany after graduation. Such differences are expected, as international students from third countries often originate from regions with lower economic development as well as lower political and societal security. Further, individual financial or security considerations could explain potential differences in their intentions to leave. The question is answered using data from a Germany-wide survey of international bachelor’s and master’s students. The study shows that students with third-country citizenship do not differ from students with EU/EFTA citizenship in their intentions to leave. However, third-country nationals indicate less often that they are uncertain about leaving Germany. Although characteristics of the home countries mostly do not influence return migration intentions, students who came to Germany in order to live in safety within a peaceful environment report lower intentions to leave Germany after graduation.

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  1. 1.

    Individuals are defined as third-country nationals if they are not citizens of an EU-28 or an EFTA country (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland). This study focuses on EU-28 countries (including the United Kingdom, as the data were collected in 2017 and 2018 when the United Kingdom was still a member of the EU).

  2. 2.

    An exception is Bratsberg (1995), who includes the civil rights index in his estimation.

  3. 3.

    The project, supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, has the funding code 01PX16016B. Responsibility for the contents of this publication rests with the author.

  4. 4.

    As the data are clustered by country of first nationality, the variable third country is a higher-level unit characteristic.

  5. 5.

    \( N\,=\,1 + 3{\text{*\;}}\frac{{Pmax - P}}{{Pmax - Pmin}} \)

    N = Grade point average in the German system; P = Grade point average awarded in home country/Studienkolleg; Pmax = Upper benchmark home country/Studienkolleg; Pmin = Lower benchmark home country/Studienkolleg.

  6. 6.

    Prospective international students whose university entrance qualification is not recognized in Germany must attend a German Studienkolleg for two semesters. At the Studienkolleg, they receive a German university entrance qualification if they pass an assessment test.

  7. 7.

    In the following, confounding variables are always controlled for, even if not expressly stated in each interpretation.

  8. 8.

    Results of the robustness checks are available upon request.

  9. 9.

    In Germany, refugees are allowed to study at a university.


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Correspondence to Theresa Thies .

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Table A1 Descriptive statistics: means and percentages
Table A2 Descriptive statistics: means and percentages, distribution by region of origin

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© 2022 Der/die Autor(en), exklusiv lizenziert durch Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, ein Teil von Springer Nature

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Thies, T. (2022). International students in higher education: Intentions to leave the host country after graduation. In: Jungbauer-Gans, M., Gottburgsen, A. (eds) Regionale Mobilität und Hochschulbildung. Higher Education Research and Science Studies. Springer VS, Wiesbaden.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-3-658-36155-6

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