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 2018” report, which provides facts and figures on the international nature of studies and research in Germany, there were 45,858 academic and artistic members of staff, among them 3,184 professors, working at 399 higher education institutions – that is almost 12 percent of all employees. Since 2010 the number of foreign academic staff has risen by more than one third. The recently simplified visa procedures for academics from non-EU member states has likewise played a role in promoting this development.


Asia, the Pacific Rim, and West Europe are the main areas of origin of the foreign academics receiving funding for a stay in Germany: Of late, each accounts for 18 percent of the total of 34,869 international experts recently supported. 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.

14,359 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 three quarters 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. Amongst other things, the Federal Government’s new strategy to internationalise education, science, and research resolved in 2017 serves as the basis for this.

Ambitious realignment of the ­internationalisation strategy

The new internationalisation strategy responds to growing globalisation, digitisation, the advance of the European Research Area, and the emergence of new, global innovation centres outside established scientific hubs. The focus is on promoting international networking, world-wide cooperation in vocational training, partnerships with the Global South and emerging markets, and transnational efforts to overcome global challenges such as climate change, health, and food security. Strengthening the European Research Area plays a special role in strengthening Germany’s position as a study and research space that is internationally attractive.

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