Universities for openness, tolerance and against xenophobia

Nationwide campaign by HRK member universities

The member universities of the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) are set to oppose xenophobia in Germany as part of a nationwide initiative. The HRK members are committing to their stance with the slogan “Universities for openness, tolerance and against xenophobia”. They are reacting to racist verbal and physical attacks in Germany and to growing isolationism in some European countries and the rest of the world, including the USA.

Universities are open-minded places. Diverse opinions and international exchange constitute the foundations of their research and teaching activities. In view of growing xenophobia and the increasing success of populist slogans, universities feel called upon to join together and actively stand up for these values.

HRK President Prof. Dr. Horst Hippler first appealed to the HRK General Assembly to support the initiative on 10 November 2015 in Kiel, and renewed his call on the occasion of the meeting of the HRK Senate on 16 February 2017 in Berlin.

The reaction of the HRK bodies demonstrated the universities’ concern, but also their readiness to take action. The universities are determined to work together in support of democratic values and enlightened, tolerant societies, and to make this clear by taking action under a common logo. University leaders wish to support members of universities in standing up to xenophobia and also intend to act accordingly in their regional and international networks.

Universities as “future workshops” of the world are transnational in and of themselves. A university can only be sustainable if it acts and thinks at international level. The HRK clearly stated this in its international strategy. An open and international campus and the international mobility of teachers and students therefore provide the essential foundations for high-quality teaching, learning and research.

Data and Facts

Currently (winter semester 20/21), there are 416,437 international students (students with a nationality other than German) registered at German universities. This figure amounts to around 14,1 per cent of all enrolled students. Of this total number, 325,000 international students are foreign students[1].This makes Germany one of the most popular host country in the world for international students. German students are equally mobile: in the 2019 academic year, around 138,000 students decided to complete part of their studies at a university outside Germany[2].

When it comes to research staff, in 2020 the proportion of international researchers working at German universities is 13 per cent – more than 55,000 people[3]. Of this number, 3,558 are professors.

In 2019, around 13,600 German scientists completed a funded stay abroad[4].

Universities can present many examples of good practice in collaborating with international partners on equal terms: The HRK Higher Education Compass lists collaborations with around 37,000 institutions worldwide. Around 300 German universities collaborate on research and teaching with more than 5,400 universities in 150 different countries.

Extensive data on international students and researchers is available from “Wissenschaft weltoffen

[1] Statistisches Bundesamt (Destatis) (Federal Statistical Office), 2021: Studierende an Hochschulen - Wintersemester 2020/2021 (Students at universities - winter semester 2019/2020). Fachserie 11, Reihe 4.1. Wiesbaden.
[2] Statistisches Bundesamt (Destatis), 2021: Deutsche Studierende im Ausland - Ergebnisse des Berichtsjahres 2019 (German Students abroad - Results of the reporting year 2019). Wiesbaden.
[3,4] DAAD und DZHW, 2022: Wissenschaft weltoffen kompakt 2022 - Daten und Fakten zur Internationalität von Studium und Forschung in Deutschland und weltweit (Data and facts regarding internationality of study and research in Germany). Bielefeld: wbv Media.