THE GERMAN state of Baden-Wurttemberg is planning to set up a private international university to attract more foreign students to the region.
Education minister Klaus von Trotha is studying the viability of founding the "International University of Germany", with Heide Ziegler, former rector of the University of Stuttgart, among its promoters.
The idea arose from an education ministry investigation which revealed the "alarming" unattractiveness of German higher education for foreign students, especially from economically dynamic Asia-Pacific and English-speaking countries.
Baden-Wurttemberg relies heavily on exports, and foreign partnerships are important to its economy.
The Baden-Wurttemberg investigation found that students with foreign passports represented just 9 per cent of students - and the majority of these had also been to secondary school in Germany.
Only 9 per cent of the foreign students come from the United States, 20 per cent from Asia and 7 per cent from Africa and Australia. Statistics for the rest of Germany paint a similar picture.
The working group concluded that in order to increase the region's popularity it would have to break down the language barrier in universities, improve study and welfare counselling, shorten the long study periods and make German degrees more compatible with Anglo-Saxon qualifications.
This is exactly what the planned International University of Germany aims to tackle from its base in Stuttgart. It would accept 400 students, including some Germans, on short, internationally recognised degrees such as masters in information technology and business. English would be the language of instruction.
Students would pay fees of DM18,000 (around Pounds 6,500) per year.
But the plan also envisages 25 per cent free places for particularly gifted students from poorer social backgrounds. Annual costs of around DM11.1 million would be financed 30 per cent by Baden-Wurttemberg, 40 per cent from fees and 30 per cent from sponsors.
Industrial supporters include IBM, Siemens, Bosch, Allianz and software developer SAP. But the plan for the private elite university is opposed by the state universities of Stuttgart, Hohenheim and Tubingen, which have developed a counter-initiative.
Supporters of this second concept were also due to submit detailed plans to the education ministry. The education minister said he would carefully consider both plans.
But he added that the idea for the private international university would "not least represent constructive competition" for the region's nine state universities.
"We want a competition of ideas and concepts but - like the business sector too - we do not want conflict between private and state universities.
"The idea is to develop the most broadly based 'international university' possible," he said.