The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), together with five partners, is working on an online platform to enable prospective international students to transition more smoothly to studies in Germany.
The digital campus – financially backed by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research – seeks to break down language, technical and cultural barriers, and offer relevant information alongside comprehensive services.
The initial test run is seeking to simplify the pathway to German universities for refugees from Ukraine.
“We are reacting to the urgent situation of giving young Ukrainians a perspective. At the same time, we are evaluating how the Digital Campus has proven itself in practice and how it can be further improved,” Alexander Knoth, chief digital officer at the DAAD, said recently.
Senior desk officer digitalisation at DAAD, Simon Holdermann, told The PIE that the project in Ukraine had been “immensely dynamic”.
“In response to [the current events in Ukraine], the project members identified relevant content-related offers and prepared the necessary workflows as well as the technical details as far as possible.
“It was decided to organise a provisional access of relevant and already available service offers: the offer is aimed exclusively at the target group of Ukrainian refugees in order to support their entry into the German higher education system,” he said.
The first support measures – including placement tests and supportive learning content – are available through the National Academic Contact Point Ukraine that DAAD created in cooperation with the BMBF, the KMK, the science ministries of the German states, and the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany.
DAAD looked into a digital offer three years ago, after acknowledging that international prospective students needed additional support.
In 2020, former DAAD general secretary Dorothea Rüland spoke of the urgent need to “innovative and digital formats in order to continue to attract excellent young people to study in Germany in the future”.
Among the partners on the project are language test provider g.a.s.t., refugee education specialist Kiron, as well as the Goethe Institute, Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen and Technical University of Lübeck.
As the initial project was aimed at Ukrainian refugees, transitions will be required before the full operations will be in place, but Holdermann said the Digital Campus will go live “well before the planned project schedule”.
A so-called ‘silent launch’ for Ukrainian students will see the offers available via the Digital Campus platform, rather than through links, Holdermann continued.
“The acquisition of more preparatory classes to cover more subjects and HEI providing those classes is under way,” he said.
“Later, the offerings of the Digital Campus will be further expanded step by step.”
The digital campus will be structured around a Learning Path Finder for prospective students with school leaving certificates, and it will “support and accompany the individual’s educational path”, Holdermann added.
It will eventually be open to all international students interested in studying in Germany.
“We are delighted with the positive feedback we have seen since we are working on the launch of the Beta-version. Lastly, we are happy to share that many German HEI have expressed interest in joining the Digital Campus with their offers to prospective foreign students,” Holdermann added.