Skip to main content
Education & Knowledge

Networking Academia

The German research landscape has an international focus and is well networked and open to academics from abroad.
Vernetzte Wissenschaft
© Gorodenkoff/

Globalisation has brought changes to the German academic world, too. The ability to network knowledge and academics plays a major role here. In this respect, Germany has positioned itself well. More than half of its academic publications are now written by researchers working on international cooperation projects. According to data compiled for the “Wissenschaft Weltoffen 2019” report, which provides facts and figures on the international range of studies and research in Germany, there were 47,500 academic and artistic members of staff, among them 3,250 professors, who are foreign citizens working at a total of 399 higher education institutions. Since 2007, the number of foreign staff members has risen by 91 percent, meaning that international academics now make up 12 percent of the entire academic workforce. The recently simplified visa procedures for academics from non-EU member states has likewise played a role in promoting this development.

Accounting for 36 percent of the total, the largest group of foreign academic staff comes from west Europe, with Asia and the Pacific region in second place with 18 percent. The main countries of origin are Italy, China, Austria and India. In many cases higher education institutions and research organisations set up welcome centres in order to be able to give the international academics greater support when settling in. Temporary stays by researchers are also regarded as beneficial since, having returned to their home countries, these researchers often become important network partners for further collaborations.

Excellent research opportunities at non-university institutions

Many academics from abroad are attracted to Germany by the country’s excellent research infrastructure. In 2017, the four biggest non-university research institutions – the Max Planck Society, the Helmholtz Association, the Leibniz Association and the Fraunhofer Society – employed around 18,000 academic workers from abroad, meaning the group makes up 25 percent of all researchers at these four institutions. Furthermore, in 2017 funding organisations such as the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) supported around 33,000 placements for foreign guest academics and scientists. Numerous top 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.

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 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.