How do Chinese students get good grades

There is a smell of bratwurst and kebab on the grounds of the Technical University of Munich. Students line up in front of two takeaways, order fast food and complain about tough exams. Li Ying, full cheeks, black hair, takes no notice and heads for a large building. The 24-year-old is studying computer science in his third master's semester. It's a tough study with a lot of math. So he has to keep going, has to work a little. Ying received his bachelor's degree from Wuhan University in China. There he met a German exchange student. He raved about "German Engineering", good technical universities like the Technical University of Munich. Ying applied for a master's degree in Germany and got a place. He likes it at the Technical University of Munich. The course has a high practical component and is free, he says. And: "In my home country, German universities enjoy an excellent reputation."

When the professor comes in the morning, the Asians are already there

Li Ying is one of around 25,500 Chinese studying in Germany. There is no other country where more people come to the local universities. According to the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Chinese have topped the list for years. Often they enroll in subjects such as mechanical engineering and electrical engineering. But economics are also enjoying great popularity. "Two thirds of Chinese students come for a master's degree," says Thomas Schmidt-Dörr, director of the Beijing DAAD office. Does this German-Chinese cooperation work? And: Does the widespread image of copying products and growing up to competition harm the Chinese?

In any case, the universities have adapted to the large number of Chinese students. The technical universities in particular actively advertise and often maintain partnerships with universities in China. The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) has been cooperating with the Beijing Institute of Technology since 2012. Together they select talented students with good German language skills to study in Germany. Almost every internationally networked university in Germany offers special consultation hours and mentoring programs. The Technical University of Munich even hosted the Chinese Moon Festival in the Audimax this year.

Despite various selection processes, not only young geniuses from China study at German universities. There are high-flyers. And there are problem cases. The group of Chinese students is as heterogeneous as that of the German, according to the Association of Nine Technical Universities (TU9). Carsten Proppe knows the academic achievements of the Chinese well. When the Dean of Studies of the Mechanical Engineering Faculty of KIT starts his lecture at eight o'clock in the morning and he enters the hall around 7.45 o'clock, the Chinese are already there. First row, middle, books on the left, writing pad on the right. "The German students then roll in around eight or later," he says. And smiles. Proppe experiences the Chinese students as motivated and hardworking, but they do not write better grades. When it comes to creativity, he observes differences, which he particularly notices in bachelor and master theses. The Chinese work in a determined and structured manner, "but they often need guidance," he says. On the other hand, he doesn't see German and other European students for a few weeks, "but then they surprise with an intelligent solution".

The Asian market is vital for medium-sized businesses - but the Office for the Protection of the Constitution warns

China and Germany are sometimes two worlds that don't want to go together. Jianfen Chen experienced it himself. After studying in China, he came to Heidelberg 15 years ago to study economics. In a few weeks he will finish his doctorate. "The Germans are straightforward, say what they think - I had to get used to that," recalls Chen. He now appreciates the German openness and thoroughness. "Everything works reliably," he says. Chen has recently been involved in the GCC Heidelberg. This is an association run by students that helps fellow students get started in Germany "so that they can quickly find their way around the foreign culture," says Chen.

Should foreigners pay?

Foreign students come to Germany in their thousands. The German universities have a good international reputation and do not charge any tuition fees. If the universities were to ask foreign students for money, they could earn millions of euros in addition. Wolfgang Herrmann would like to change the existing system and ask foreigners from outside the EU to pay. The President of the Technical University of Munich said in the summer of this year: "I see coming that non-EU foreigners will share in the costs." According to Hermann, tuition fees are only conceivable if universities offer services such as living space in return. Like Hermann, Edith Sitzmann, leader of the Greens in the state parliament of Baden-Württemberg, made a statement last year. Non-EU foreigners could pay up to 1000 euros per semester, she said. Shortly afterwards, the Ministry of Science in Stuttgart, led by the Greens, confirmed that it would examine these plans. When asked again, the ministry said: "The plans are still being examined."

The German Rectors' Conference (HRK) is rather cautious. International specialists are in demand in Germany. The pros and cons of tuition fees should therefore be carefully considered. According to the HRK, fees alone are not enough. If you think about it, think about loan and scholarship programs for students from developing countries. KEVIN SCHREIN

Not only universities and student associations, but also many companies welcome young Chinese academics. Business in Asia is vital for German medium-sized and large corporations. Qualified, international graduates are in demand, according to the German Rectors' Conference. Some companies take a similar view. "China is an emerging market," says Torsten Fiddelke, press spokesman at the automotive supplier ZF-Friedrichshafen. "A diverse workforce from different cultures is immensely important to us." The colleagues from China are not a threat to German engineers. Both are asked, says Fiddelke.

The constitutional protection authorities, on the other hand, look at developments with concern. It can be assumed that some of the students were spying for their home country, according to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. According to the secret service, Chinese students must report to the embassy or consulate upon arrival. They are encouraged to attend embassy meetings regularly, which most of them do. The government knows exactly where which student is studying and doing an internship - and can recruit him if necessary, warn the constitutional protection authorities. Some companies also sense danger. "In a personal conversation, companies say that they are careful with Chinese interns," says Professor Proppe.

Li Ying, the computer science student from Munich, heard about the concerns of German companies. "I'm not here to spy," he says. Ying can imagine working in Germany. He believes that this is going down well with Chinese companies. If only it weren't for the German cuisine. "I just don't like it."