Networking academia

At German universities and academic institutes, research in international teams is part of everyday life
At German universities and academic institutes, research in international teams is part of everyday life Thomas Koehler/Photothek via Getty Images
The German research landscape has an international focus, is well networked and open to academics from abroad.

Globalisation is also presenting the German academic landscape with new challenges. The ability to network knowledge and academics plays a major role here. In this respect, Germany has positioned itself well. Almost half of its academic publications are now written by researchers working on international cooperation projects. According to data compiled for the “Wissenschaft Weltoffen 2015” report, which provides facts and figures on the international nature of studies and research in Germany, there were 38,094 academic and artistic members of staff, among them 2,886 professors, working at the 399 higher education institutions – that is 10 percent of all employees. Since 2006 the number of foreign academic staff has risen by 74 percentage points; the number of professors grew by 46 percent. The recently simplified visa procedures for academics from non-EU member states has likewise played a role in promoting this development.

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A positive trend can moreover be observed in the number of foreign researchers receiving funding for their stay in Germany. The key countries of origin of those experts 56,310 currently working in the Federal Republic are Russia, China, India, the USA, and Italy. In many cases higher education institutions and research organisations set up welcome centres, so as to be able to give the international academics greater support as they settle in. Temporary stays by researchers are also regarded as beneficial, for having returned to their home countries, they often become important network partners for further collaborations.

Many academics from abroad are attracted to Germany by the country’s excellent research infrastructure, which includes the opportun­ity to work on large-scale research facilities, which in some cases are the only ones of their kind in the world. The Helmholtz Association alone operates some 50 large-scale facilities for a wide range of research fields. Numerous academics from abroad, who are leading in their field, come to German universities on a Humboldt Professorship, Germany’s most highly endowed research prize, which is worth five million euros and is awarded by the Humboldt Foundation.

17,686 German academics have received funding to conduct research abroad; the most important sponsors are the German Research Foundation (DFG), the European Marie Curie Fellowship programme, and in particular the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the world’s largest funding organisation for student and academic exchange, from which almost two thirds of the students and academics to receive funding were awarded a scholarship.

Germany aims to develop and expand international academic collaboration, while at the same time elevating it to the next level of quality. The International Cooperation Action Plan approved by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in 2014 serves as the basis for this.

Ambitious realignment of the ­internationalisation strategy

On the basis of the action plan, the Strategy for the Internationalisation of Science and Research launched in 2008 will be realigned and adapted to recent changes. This includes developing the European Research Area (ERA) within the European Union, whose consolidation Germany strongly endorses, as it gives researchers the chance to enjoy freedom of movement and academic findings, while technologies will be freely exchanged. The action plan also outlines the shape of future cooperation agreements with developing and emerging nations and explains how Germany can play a major role in solving global challenges.

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