Student mobility, hardship in COVID – State responses slammed
University World News, Michael Gardner, 7 August 2020. International student mobility has suffered severely during the coronavirus crisis. However, the German federal government’s response to questions submitted to parliament by opposition politicians suggests that it is basing its assessment of developments on outdated statistics reflecting rising or at least constant student mobility levels.
In late July, Jens Brandenburg and Katja Suding of the opposition Free Democratic Party or FDP submitted to federal parliament an interpellation – questions, as an instrument for scrutiny of government – on the “Impacts of the Corona Crisis on International Student Mobility”.
While mobility grew fourfold between 1980 and 2019, the German Academic Exchange Service or DAAD, based on a survey it conducted in April 2020, refers to at least 20,000 to 30,000 German students having cut short stays abroad, while roughly 80,000 international students are reckoned to have left Germany.
The reply to Brandenburg and Suding’s interpellation by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research or BMBF does mention the DAAD figures but otherwise only cites statistics of the Federal Statistical Office reaching up to 2019.
Neither does the ministry use breakdowns of statistics showing countries of origin of international students applying for bridging loans and emergency support – although, according to Deutsches Studentenwerk, the German Student Welfare Service, such figures are available.
“It’s quite remarkable that in a 23-page reply, the BMBF can only refer to 2018 figures and has made no preparations over the last few months to form a realistic assessment of its own regarding the situation in international student mobility and, in particular, that of students from Africa, Asia and Latin America,” commented Kambiz Ghawami, Germany chair of the World University Service.
Jens Brandenburg had already submitted an interpellation earlier in July inquiring about support for students facing financial hardship during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Applications are often rejected because of formalities, for example when dismissal from a part-time job does not refer explicitly to pandemic-related reasons. The high level of applications turned down demonstrates that requirements for financial support quite obviously lack transparency,” Brandenburg commented, referring to figures mentioned in the response from the federal government. “This doesn’t exactly help students.”
Hesse promises more financial support for students
Meanwhile, the state of Hesse has announced that, should federal subsidies for students facing coronavirus-related financial hardship become oversubscribed, it will provide extra help for students, adding an extra €10 million (US$11.9 million) to the original €100 million.
The new money would come from a special Hessian government fund titled ‘Hessens gute Zukunft sichern’ (securing a good future for Hesse). But it will only be paid out if hardship persists and federal funds are exhausted.
The Hessian government warns that the provision of additional emergency support in the form of non-repayable subsidies could otherwise result in students not receiving federal support for the month for which they have applied.