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Spanish higher education institutions (HEIs) are popular among international students, at undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral level. For instance, one in three students doing a doctorate in business administration in Spain are from abroad. Factors for success include customised offers and funding opportunities. These are the findings of an analysis in the current issue of “DUZ – Magazin für Wissenschaft und Gesellschaft” in the series “DUZ Spotlight – Gute Praxis international”, published in cooperation with the CHE Centre for Higher Education.

Until the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, HEIs around the world were becoming increasingly internationalised at all levels: student and staff mobility increased, not least thanks to the ERASMUS programme. International cooperation in research also continued to gain in importance on the whole.

Apart from study abroad, the issue of international doctorates in particular grew in significance. “International doctoral students, acting at the interface between study and research, are beneficial to HEIs and countries alike,” explained Gero Federkeil. “Besides being ambassadors for their system of higher education and science, PhD students also help pave the way for cooperation between higher education and research institutions,” stated the Head of International Rankings at the CHE Centre for Higher Education.

A team of authors from CHE looked into which factors were key to achieving a higher international PhD ratio for the latest “DUZ Spotlight – Gute Praxis international”. Three Spanish HEIs, where, according to the international university ranking “U-Multirank”, international students accounted for between 68 and 83 per cent of all PhD students of business administration, served as good practice examples.

In addition to there being no language barriers for PhD students from other Spanish-speaking countries, the Galicia-based University of A Coruña, for example, scores highly on account of its customised services. Thanks to the establishment of a state-funded programme, scholarships and financial support options can be specifically offered to doctoral students. By adapting application periods to internationally established semester dates, the university also endeavours to make the application process as smooth as possible for prospective international students.

“HEIs seeking to position themselves as being internationally oriented should also ensure that internationalisation is firmly embedded in their mission statement. It should be central to the university’s strategy, as is the case at Jacobs University in Bremen,” advised Gero Federkeil. This private university in Bremen, which reserves three-quarters of its places for undergraduate degrees for international students, has by far the highest rate of international doctorates in Germany (60 per cent).

The CHE authors recommend a whole range of measures to increase the recruitment of international doctoral researchers. Besides the provision of services, these measures also include the consistent internationalisation of all areas of the university – for example, by making English the central official and working language on campus.

The topic was addressed in the 06/2021 issue of DUZ on 25 June. The authors Gero Federkeil, Caroline Friedhoff and Kathrin Müller are responsible for the international university ranking “U-Multirank” at the CHE Centre for Higher Education. The dossier is the ninth issue of the “DUZ Spotlight – Gute Praxis international” format, developed collaboratively by CHE and DUZ, which is published every now and then in DUZ and at www.che.de.

Previous issues of the Spotlight Dossier have explored the Austrian model of the lifelong student ID (09/2017 issue), the British professional doctorate (01/2018), the Dutch University Teaching Qualification (08/2018), the transfer community based on the Swiss model (12/2018), the establishment of academic continuing education certificates in Switzerland (11/2019), instructional designers in university operations (02/2020), learning spaces of the future (08/2020) and social innovations on campus (11/2020). All publications are available online at www.che.de .