1. Your Excellency, many highly qualified students from Bangladesh come to Germany for their studies. According to the numbers of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), 2,764 students from Bangladesh were enrolled at German universities in the 2017/18 winter semester. How do you assess the great interest of young people from Bangladesh in studying at German universities?
H.E.: I think this is a wholesome trend that a good number of Bangladeshi students flock to the countries where advancing higher education with solid academic and research experience is secured. Germany, notably, has long been the destination for Bangladeshi students to offer one of the best quality higher degrees. It is perceived in socioeconomic setting in Bangladesh that the recipients of quality higher education substantiate the human resources who are better able to scale up the country's economy with enhanced knowledge and skills. In addition, this establishes a nexus in our effort to maintain a high GDP growth, and we also correlate this phenomenon in stepping ahead to attaining the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
We extend our heartfelt thanks to the German government for enabling conditions that help transform their dreams to earn foreign degrees into realities. We also deeply appreciate the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) for continued support in providing room for large number of Bangladeshi students every year.
2. What difficulties do you currently see in the access of students from non-EU countries to German universities?
H.E.: As I mentioned earlier, the German support for Bangladeshi students in accessing higher education in Germany is acknowledged with profound appreciation. At the same time, it is also quite normal that a student from Bangladesh might face some adaptive challenges associated with communication in a foreign language. Some students often highlight that the House Registration is required for the receipt of correspondence and the facilities associated with their studentship. However, a large number of students, who fail to secure university dormitories for accommodation, cannot present proper contacts with the landlords, as they usually stay in shared accommodation with friends, relatives, etc.
Secondly, the German visa authorities currently issue student visas that restrict part-time working in the first year or 6 months, though earlier, students were able to work on a part time basis from the day of arrival. This poses a trying situation for many students to afford the basic needs at the primary stage in Germany. This is said to be further burdensome when their German visa extension requires them to retain around €8,000 with their German bank accounts – the amount they transfer to Germany for basic expenses.
3. What measures do you think would make sense to reduce these hurdles?
H.E.: We are aware of the fact that some German cities have housing crisis and finding affordable accommodation might primarily entail loss of productivity besides affecting studies. A viable solution to this problem could be: universities sign up a contract with landlords in nearby locations for the accommodations they need in excess of the existing ones. The rent of these houses will then be shared by the tenant students.
For the other problem, the German visa authority can reinstate, while issuing visas, the part-time work permit option from the very beginning of a student’s arrival in Germany – as well as exempting the requirement of retaining €8,000 with their bank accounts for visa extension.
4. What are currently the central projects in the cooperation between Bangladesh and Germany in the field of science and higher education?
H.E.: Since 1972, the German Government has extended financial and technical cooperation to Bangladesh. Most of the German development support to Bangladesh has been channelled through GIZ Bangladesh. Currently, it has three focus areas as follows:
- Renewable energy and energy efficiency
- Good governance, rule of law, human rights
- Adaptation to climate change in urban areas
Germany extends support to the textile and garment sector which is vital for Bangladesh’s economy and social development. This is worth-noting that Bangladesh is currently having an ongoing project supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the Ministry of Education of Bangladesh. The project follows a holistic approach of three levels of interventions in close cooperation with the University Grants Commission (UGC) of Bangladesh and the DAAD:
- Improving the quality of the study programs at selected universities of Bangladesh by embedding social and environmental aspects into the curriculum and integrating practice-oriented teaching methods
- Intensifying applied research in response to the needs of the textile and garment sector
- Supporting universities to develop training modules on responsible corporate management for the mid-level managers at factory level
Under the project, there are exchange and training programs between the University of North Rhine-Westphalia and BGMEA University of Fashion & Technology (BUFT) in Bangladesh. The program facilitates internship of around 10 Germans in BUFT every year in Bangladesh. We further highlight on the Bangladesh-German Technical Training Center in Dhaka which was established in 1965 with German support.
5. How do you assess the role of digital service providers such as Expatrio in facilitating the visa process and university access?
H.E.: We acknowledge the services provided by Expatrio by terming it beneficial to the Bangladeshi recipients. The services, I believe, assist students to a great extent for their entry and stay in Germany. We extend thanks to Expatrio for their effective services.
6. How important are the students from Bangladesh living in Germany in the framework of bilateral relations?
H.E.: After establishment of diplomatic relations in 1972, bilateral relations between Bangladesh and Germany began to grow steadily both in depth and dimension. We deeply appreciate the German support of Bangladesh as intensifying ethnic and religious persecution on Rohingyas in Myanmar has evicted them from their ancestral land and forced to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh. The Rohingya exodus has ultimately caused the Bangladesh to provide shelter for 1.1 million refugees with economic, social and environmental cost of inconceivable enormity.
In trade with Germany, Bangladesh has for years recorded a large surplus amounting near $6 billion export to Germany. In addition to garment products, Germany is the largest export destination for Bangladeshi ships and bicycles. Other significant exportable are jute, ceramic, leather and pharmaceutical products.
The German investment in Bangladesh is also on the increase in recent years. The German company Siemens is going to invest several billion dollars in power sector of Bangladesh. IFE Erikson AG also has foreign investment in installing large scale solar power plant in Bangladesh. Notably, German companies account for meeting the major demand for capital machinery imports in power sector of Bangladesh. In addition to that, mentionable is the name of another German Company, Veridos, which is implementing electronic passport project in Bangladesh. To scale up bilateral business, German development bank KfW has opened a branch office in Dhaka. In the last year, more than 1800 German businessmen visited Bangladesh. In tandem with German public and private sectors, a large number of German NGOs have been in active collaboration with many local institutions and contributing to the development of Bangladesh.
This is, nevertheless, very certain that the bilateral relations with Germany have been positively impacting the economic growth of Bangladesh, and definitely a large number of Bangladeshi students living in Germany are pacing up to take this relationship to the next level of partnering developments.
7. Bangladesh also has highly qualified young people in the field of skilled labor, which is urgently needed in Germany. What potential do you see in this area for intensifying bilateral cooperation?
H.E.: One overarching focus of the development of Bangladesh in expanding lookout for employment recess in the foreign destinations. The Bangladesh Embassy in Berlin has recently been in contact with few manpower outsourcing firms in Germany and Romania and exploring the niche of job markets for professionals and skilled workers.
This is indeed a fact that overseas employment for Bangladeshi human resources creates a window of opportunity for enabling the sustained growth in Bangladesh in terms of sending remittance, technology transfer, etc. If a portion of skilled and qualified people of Bangladesh finds work opportunities in Germany, this, I believe, would further strengthen the bilateral relations between the countries.
This interview was conducted by Alexander Ruthemeier (Co-Founder) and Urs Unkauf (Director Public Affairs). We thank H.E. Ambassador Ahmed very much and highly appreciate the further cooperation with the Embassy.
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