“Taster courses” in Germany
The BIDS is celebrating its anniversary: the DAAD’s funding programme makes it easier for PASCH school-leavers to begin a course of study at a German University.
AT THE AGE OF 17, Anna Schardt from Nizhny Tagil in the Ural Mountains came to study at Giessen University. The language posed no problems for the young Russian as she had already passed her German language diploma while still at school. “It was always my dream to study in Germany”, remarks Anna, who is now 23. During her first two semesters, her studies were funded by a scholarship from the BIDS programme, an initiative to support German schools abroad and partner schools. “This allowed me to get settled without any financial pressure”, explains the trainee teacher, who one day will teach German and Russian. She found a job at Studienkolleg Mittelhessen – a preparatory college in Marburg – through a contact in the BIDS network. As a research assistant, Anna Schardt herself now supports university applicants from all over the world who want to come to Germany.
A network of 1,800 partner schools around the globe
In 2008, Germany’s Federal Foreign Office launched the “Schools: Partners for the Future” (PASCH) initiative with a view to bringing the world’s German schools abroad into contact with one another. This has resulted in a network of 1,800 partner schools. What sets partner schools apart is the fact that they offer a more intensive level of German teaching. As a result, their school-leavers – like Anna Schardt – are ideally prepared for a course of study in Germany. This is where the DAAD’s BIDS funding programme comes in; it has been part of the PASCH initiative ever since it was established in 2008. “We tell pupils at PASCH schools about their opportunities for studying in Germany, and make it easier for them to get started”, explains Dr. Esther May, who is responsible at the DAAD for projects aimed at promoting the German language, as well as for the BIDS programme. “In the past ten years, we have succeeded in drawing the attention of German universities to this highly-educated target group.” Around 4,700 young people received funding from the BIDS programme between 2008 and 2018. The overall verdict after ten years is positive: there is considerable demand, especially in Central and Southeast Europe, Latin America, China and Russia. The BIDS programme meets one key need of the target group as they make the transition from a school abroad to a university in Germany. There are two primary lines of funding: taster weeks give groups of school students an initial insight into university life in Germany. Then there are motivational scholarships that are aimed at those just beginning a degree course, as there is little in the way of funding available for them. Providing them with an initial grant of 325 euros helps them while they are settling into life in Germany. “A year on, it is much easier for them to find a job or other financial support”, says May. During most of the funding phases, funding is additionally provided for personnel to support, organise and coordinate the BIDS projects, or to cover travel costs for university staff who are establishing contact with a partner school.
The universities have many ideas for implementing the programme
BIDS leaves it largely to the universities themselves to design the taster weeks as they wish. During a fourweek seminar for applicants entitled “Sommer im Schloss“ (i.e. Summer in the Palace), the Baden- Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW) sets up meetings with potential employers and training providers in the local region. The University of Greifswald uses a buddy programme to bring the young guests together with students already enrolled on the degree courses they hope to study. “This way they have people they can talk to directly and who can show them what they find particularly interesting”, says Britt Schumacher, who is responsible for the programme at the university’s International Office. As well as taking part in German lessons and excursions, the prospective students, who stay with host families, learn a lot about the country and its people. “All of the pupils so far have been highly enthusiastic”, observes Schumacher. “The teachers who accompany them from abroad also show a great deal of interest, for instance in teaching methods.” Many universities take advantage of the BIDS programme to consolidate their existing university partnerships and to widen their contacts to include PASCH schools in the respective country. Others use their cooperation with German secondary schools to form three-way partnerships. In many cases, this develops into something more: the University of Jena for example makes strategic use of its BIDS project, sending its trainee teachers on a practical work placement semester at schools that it has incorporated into its network via the funding programme. “The circle is complete when we invite pupils to attend taster weeks in Jena and the schools host our trainee teachers”, stresses Dr. Claudia Hillinger, the director of the International Office. “This serves to strengthen our ties.”
The variety of universities in the network is a key success factor
Johannes Thyssen from Mexico had never heard of Wildau before, so he was delighted when staff from the International Office came to his PASCH school to introduce pupils to the Brandenburg University of Applied Sciences. “I was also able to enrol on the international foundation course even though I didn’t have the Abitur exam”, explains the 19-year-old. A BIDS scholarship helped him through the first two semesters, and now he is in his third semester of a degree in mechanical engineering. The variety of universities and locations in the BIDS network is a key success factor. All types of higher education institution are represented in the funding programme, from preparatory colleges and universities of applied science to full universities and university alliances such as the TU9, which stages annual taster weeks for budding engineers. “We make sure to offer a balanced mix”, emphasises Esther May, adding that Germany’s dual education system is not well known abroad. “However, it is very attractive and offers excellent opportunities for entering the labour market.” In future, PASCH schools are to be encouraged more to take advantage of funding measures of their own accord and to enter into partnerships with German universities. A central information platform is planned, the idea being for it to pool all the different offers and provide easier access to the right contact persons and measures.