International outlook

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Higher education and research are international

Berlin is international. And so are higher education and research. International students, PhD candidates, junior scientists, and professors find excellent research and teaching here, and there is extensive collaboration between the countless and diverse university and non-university institutions. In hundreds of research projects, Berlin-based scholars and scientists work together with colleagues in Europe and the world. Berlin’s colleges and universities, as well as its research institutions, facilitate the exchange of thousands of students and researchers each semester, thereby promoting intercultural dialogue and, above all, driving new developments and scientific findings. Internationalization is a cross-cutting task at all levels of higher education and research and it is part of what guides the state of Berlin and its overall political strategy. Internationalization is anchored in Berlin’s Higher Education Act and its contracts with colleges and universities.

Berlin was quick to recognize that international exchange and dialogue are essential prerequisites of cutting-edge research, compelling teaching, innovation, and scientific development. Another precondition is adequate funding. When it comes to public spending on research and development, Berlin ranks first among all German states (in percent of each state’s GDP).

The extensive international relations of Berlin’s colleges and universities and non-university institutions are a strong lure for an increasing number of students, scientists, and scholars from all over the world. This has a positive impact on Berlin’s quality and attractiveness as a center of science and learning. The many research projects with international partners, as well as Berlin’s leading position in funding rankings by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation or the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), attest to that.

Examples of Berlin’s international outlook

  • Based on Berlin’s Higher Education Act, its contracts with colleges and universities, and the Strategie des Bundes und der Länder zur Internationalisierung der Hochschulen in Deutschland (strategy of the federal and state governments to internationalize higher education in Germany), Berlin’s colleges and universities are raising their profiles with their own action plans, including welcome and career services, strategic partnerships, international double degree programs, lectures held in foreign languages, research collaborations, continued education abroad, and visiting professorship programs.
  • Berlin’s colleges and universities currently employ around 2,360 international scientists and scholars.
  • Berlin has a bigger share of international first-semester students than any other German state: one in three new students is from outside Germany.
  • Participation by institutions of higher education in the EU’s and DAAD’s major mobility programs (e.g., ERASMUS+) is a key factor in their internationalization strategies, which will continue to gain importance in the new funding period leading up to 2020.
  • Technische Universität Berlin has an overseas campus in Al Gouna, Egypt.
  • As part of its Excellence Strategy, Freie Universität Berlin maintains an international network of seven liaison offices in Brussels, Cairo, New Delhi, New York, Moscow, Beijing, and São Paulo.

Berlin’s higher education and research landscape also has enormous expertise in the most diverse regions in the world, which is of great scholarly, cultural, and political value. This includes:

  • Freie Universität Berlin’s Central Institutes for North American, Latin American, and East European Studies and its centers for French and Italian studies
  • Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin’s Center for British Studies and the Department of Northern European Studies
  • Center for Metropolitan Studies at Technische Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and Freie Universität Berlin, which cooperates with metropolitan cities worldwide
  • Professorships and interdisciplinary research projects on many different regions in the world, e.g., Africa and Asia, China, the Middle East
  • Zentrum Moderner Orient (Center of Modern Oriental Studies), which researches developments in Muslim societies in the Middle East, Africa, and Central, South, and Southeast Asia, taking a multidisciplinary approach and comparing their respective histories

European higher education and research opportunities in Berlin

EU member states are working closely to preserve Europe’s long-term competitiveness and to make sure it is fit to meet major social and economic challenges in the future, too. Different measures and programs aim to bring the academic and research systems of the different states closer together. As a result, national, bilateral, and European research policy will become more integrated and the international dimension will be strengthened.

Berlin holds enormous potential in the area of higher education and research, which it uses to promote European cooperation. This is particularly evident in the active participation of Berlin’s academic and scientific institutions in

  • the European Union’s framework programs for research
  • the EU program for education and training (Erasmus+) and
  • EU third-country programs.

Berlin’s institutions of higher education and its scientific and research institutes are also popular partners in European networks.

Research framework program

The European Framework Programs for Research are an important instrument for promoting European cooperation in higher education and research. Berlin obtained funding of almost €585 million for 1,500 project participations under the 7th Framework Program for Research in the funding period between 2007 and 2013. Berlin’s colleges and universities were able to raise almost €216 million in EU funding; its research institutions raised around €240 million. This trend is continuing under the subsequent program, Horizon 2020. After the first half of the funding period, Berlin had received €312 million.

Berlin position paper on the future of EU Framework Programs on Research and Innovation (December 2016)

Joint Berlin Position Paper on the Future EU Framework Program for Research and Innovation FP 9, (February 2018)

Horizon 2020

Berlin’s colleges and universities are actively engaged in the 8th EU Framework Program for Research, Horizon 2020, which runs from 2014 to 2020. Horizon 2020 is the first European Framework Program that supports both research and innovation.

The funding program is composed of three pillars, each with a different focus. While Pillar I is dedicated primarily to the funding of excellent individual scientists (e.g., grants from the European Research Council – so far 92 European research grants have been awarded to scientists at Berlin’s institutions of higher education and research institutes), Pillar II is aimed at supporting industrial leadership and SMEs, and Pillar III supports collaborative research projects on societal challenges.

Scientists who are interested in EU research funding will receive advice and support for the application process from their colleges and universities or the EU liaison officers in the third-party funding departments of the relevant institutions. The national contact points and the European Liaison Office of the German Research Organizations (KoWi) also offer guidance and advice.

The Europeanization of university studies

The Europeanization of teaching at Berlin’s colleges and universities has become a matter of course. This is reflected in the European and Europe-related institutions, degree programs, and course modules, international double degree programs, and the consistent use of the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS).

Students interested in Europe

Students who are interested in Europe will find a wide array of different study programs in Berlin. Erasmus+ gives students the chance to gain international experience, and it also supports partnerships between organizations, institutions, and initiatives. For further information, please visit the websites of Berlin’s colleges and universities (in German) or use the DAAD search engine for the state of Berlin.