Which Factors Drive Major Change and University Dropout? An Analysis on International Degree-Seeking Students at German Universities


  • Theresa Thies Bavarian State Institute for Higher Education Research and Planning
  • Susanne Falk Bavarian State Institute for Higher Education Research and Planning




international students, university dropout, major change, degree mobility, student satisfaction, university persistence, higher education


Germany is a non-English speaking country with a large and growing number of incoming international degree-seeking students. However, their estimated dropout rates are high. This study aims to investigate whether specific challenges faced by international students (e.g., social and academic integration, language learning, financial situation, residence-permit related regulations) are associated with major change and university dropout. The discrete-time competing risk analyses of the first three semesters of an online panel survey of international students in Germany (International Student Survey; N = 3,660) show that satisfaction with the degree program’s content decreases the risk of major change and university dropout. Moreover, the nationality and the associated temporary or permanent residence permit are considered in the students’ educational decisions. Based on the results, we recommend improving the match between students’ interest and their fields of study. Measures to prevent international students from dropping out must thus begin before they start their studies.

Author Biographies

Theresa Thies, Bavarian State Institute for Higher Education Research and Planning

THERESA THIES, M.A., is a PhD student at the University of Bremen and a research associate at the Bavarian State Institute for Higher Education Research and Planning in Munich, Germany. Her major research interests lie in the area of higher education research, migration, internationalization and life course sociology. Email: thies@ihf.bayern.de

Susanne Falk, Bavarian State Institute for Higher Education Research and Planning

SUSANNE FALK, PhD, is a research associate and senior researcher at the Bavarian State Institute for Higher Education Research and Planning in Munich, Germany. Her major research interests lie in the area of academic careers, the transition from higher education institutions into the labor market, academic success, and student dropout. Email: falk@ihf.bayern.de


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How to Cite

Thies, T., & Falk, S. (2023). Which Factors Drive Major Change and University Dropout? An Analysis on International Degree-Seeking Students at German Universities. Journal of International Students, 14(1), 326–346. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v15i1.5434