German universities welcome students from abroad. The dropout rate among foreign students, however, is quite high. According to a study conducted by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), nearly one out of two international students in Germany ends their bachelor studies prematurely. Ulm University offers a special preparatory semester in order to help foreign students quickly adjust to the German university system. As of the summer 2019 term, the preparatory course is no longer just for those aiming to study at Ulm University. Now, applicants wishing to study at the Ulm University of Applied Sciences (THU) or Neu-Ulm University of Applied Sciences (HNU) can also take advantage of this offer.
“The preparatory semester helps us to fully qualify new international students for beginning their studies, enabling them to settle in quickly at their university. In cooperating with the universities of applied sciences, we are both sharing our model approach and creating synergies. Thus, we are contributing toward making the region of Ulm/Neu-Ulm a more attractive place to study”, explains Professor Olga Pollatos, vice president for teaching at Ulm University.
As the project expanded to include the universities of applied sciences, the organisers came up with a new abbreviated name for it. The “Linguistic and Socio-Cultural Preparatory Semester for Prospective International Students” is now called “FOKuS – Studienstart Deutsch” (“Fachliche Orientierung, Kultur und Sprache für den Studienstart Deutsch” – or, in English, “Technical Orientation, Culture and Language for New Students in Germany”). As the new name indicates, participants are not only equipped for their studies in terms of language skills, but they also acquire technical qualifications and other studying skills.
The programme expansion has not brought about much change in terms of content; the universities of applied sciences have a similar profile to that of Ulm University. “Participants are prepared in a very board sense for pursuing a degree in mathematics, computer science, natural sciences, economics or engineering”, relates Grit Laske-Dünkler, project manager at Ulm University’s International Office.
The programme includes German language courses, which are essential for studying in Germany, as well as technical and studying skills, such as learning strategies and self-organisation. In addition to the courses held at Ulm University, special informational days are also offered for prospective students at the universities of applied sciences.
“Internationalisation is an important topic for us. A part of that is enabling international students to take up their studies in our demanding technical study programmes with as few difficulties as possible. Here the preparatory semester plays an essential role: participants are introduced to the unique features of German academic culture, and gaps in their language skills can be filled. Students also receive outstanding support in selecting the study programme that best suits them”, emphasises Professor Sven Völker, vice president at Ulm University of Applied Sciences.
Professor Thomas Bayer, vice president for internationalisation and transfer at the Neu-Ulm University of Applied Sciences, adds, ”It is in our interest that international students acquire the prerequisites for a successful start in their study programmes, thereby securing good chances of successful degree completion. Especially in light of our region’s persistent shortage of skilled workers, it is important to focus on the effective and timely integration of international students.”
The stated objective of the project UULM PRO MINT & MED at Ulm University is to improve studying conditions and make it easier for students to start their studies. In addition, this project is intended to make student transition phases go more smoothly, such the transition to a master’s programme, a doctorate programme or into the career world. The FOKuS preparatory semester is one of the project’s many offers. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) is sponsoring the preparatory course as a model project for improving the welcoming culture. Within the framework of the Scholarship and Support Programme (STIBET II), a total of 180,000 euros are flowing into the project between 2018 and 2020. Supporters also include the Ulm University student body.
Applications are currently being accepted for the 2019/20 winter term via the online portal uni assist. The application deadline is 15 July! Acceptance to the programme is dependent on a language aptitude and level test.
The preparatory semester, including the language course, is offered free of charge. There are no tuition fees, even for foreigners from non-EU countries. Fees do apply, however, for the application and language test. Regular semester administrative fees are additional.
Text and media contact: Daniela Stang