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Internationalization of Higher Education

With the rise of globalization, institutions of higher education need to become more international in order to operate effectively in the global education market. This also calls for more student and scientist exchanges. As a result, international exchange has become an even more important requirement for modern universities, top-quality research and innovation.

The Federal Government supports German universities in their efforts to assert themselves against a growing number of international competitors. University marketing has the aim of encouraging students, young scientists and researchers across the world to study or conduct research at German universities. The universities themselves are moving towards a "European Higher Education Area."

GAIN - German Academic International Network

About 6,000 German scientists work and conduct research in the USA. GAIN - German Academic International Network is a platform and an important networking instrument. More than 4,000 scientists are already registered. Over the years, GAIN has established itself as a networking forum for German researchers in North America and as a platform for improving transatlantic communication.

GAIN is not only concerned with the return of German researchers to interesting positions in Europe, but also with maintaining contact and working together with researchers who have decided to remain in the U.S. on a long-term or permanent basis.

It offers continuous reporting on new developments in science policy, monthly newsletters, regular regional and national scientist meetings, and recruitment fairs. Attractive job offers are the best way to encourage a large number of these academics to return to Germany. This is why the GAIN forum also offers practical advice for the period during and after a postdoc as well as a series of career development workshops.

Launched by the BMBF in 2003, GAIN is a joint initiative of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). The Fraunhofer Society, the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, the Max Planck Society, the Leibniz Association, the University Rectors' Conference, and the Deutsche Krebshilfe have joined as associated members.

The annual GAIN meetings take place alternately on the East Coast and the West Coast. In addition to German researchers, high-ranking representatives of the BMBF and of science organizations as well as businesspeople and policy-makers attend the meetings.

Group picture with Parliamentary State Secretary Dr. Helge Braun (centre) at the 12th annual GAIN meeting in Boston (September 2012), © BMBFGroup picture with Parliamentary State Secretary Dr. Helge Braun (centre) at the 12th annual GAIN meeting in Boston (September 2012) ©BMBF.Engaging in dialogue with these researchers is very important for politics and science. The focus of the annual meetings is therefore on attracting academics back to Europe and on the ongoing dialogue between science, business and politics. In view of the skills shortage in Germany, the skills and knowledge that young scholars acquire in North America offer a great opportunity for innovation in Germany. The GAIN website contains numerous links offering information on funding opportunities for German researchers who are interested in returning to Germany.

Science Conference “Building Bridges: Cutting-Edge Researchers for Germany, Cutting-Edge Research in Germany” 2011

Under the motto “Building Bridges,” the conference on “braingain” took place in Berlin from 22 to 25 June 2011. The BMBF funded this event of the German Scholars Organization e.V. (GSO), which supports German research working abroad, brings them together, and helps them network with German research institutes and businesses.

Further information on the event programme can be found here.

 The conference offered a framework for representatives from politics and science to discuss ways to make Germany more attractive to the best and brightest in the context of global competition. In her speech at the conference, BMBF State Secretary Quennet-Thielen emphasized the importance of a welcoming culture.

Sofja Kovalevskaja Award

An important goal of the BMBF is winning over top scientists and researchers from abroad to work at universities and research institutions in Germany: With the Sofja Kovalevskaja Award, young exceptionally promising researchers receive funding to carry out research with their own junior research group in a field of their choice for a period of five years.

The BMBF founded the award in 2002 and endowed it with a total of 10 million euros. It is awarded every two years. Handed out by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, it is one of the most highly endowed science awards in Germany with a value of up to 1.65 million euro per recipient.

Alexander von Humboldt Professorships

Since 2008, the Alexander von Humboldt professorships have been awarded annually. With this most highly valued international award for research in Germany, the BMBF and the Humboldt Foundation honour leading academics working in all parts of the world and in all disciplines. It aims to enable the recipient to carry out long-term and forward-looking research at German institutions of higher education.

Funds are made available for a period of five years. This money primarily goes towards building a research team and the acquisition of equipment; in addition, the researcher will be provided with an internationally competitive salary. At the same time, the institution is obligated to integrate the researcher and his or her team into an overarching concept which provides prizewinners with longer-term prospects to remain in Germany.

  • The AvH is the National Coordination Point of EURAXESS Germany, offering information and advice for internationally mobile researchers interested in coming to Germany to take up employment in a field of research, and for those interested in leaving Germany to research abroad (Funding databases and further services).
  • AvH is the National Contact Point for mobility measures within the EU Research Framework Programme, particularly Marie Curie Actions.

Exchange of Students, Graduates and Academics

The BMBF supports the exchange of German students, graduates and scientists in order to internationally qualify young German academics both scientifically and culturally. These tasks are carried out by the intermediary organizations. The largest and most important of these is the German Academic Exchange Service, DAAD, which is open to all countries and disciplines. Over the last 50 years, almost 600,000 Germans have received a DAAD scholarship to complete a study, research or internship stay abroad.

The joint BMBF and DAAD campaign “Go Out – Studieren und forschen weltweit” was launched in 2006 and aims to excite German students for a stay abroad. Since 2010, the DAAD has supported German universities with its “Programm zur Steigerung der Mobilität von deutschen Studierenden” (PROMOS), which provides funding for students who wish to participate in short-term (up to six months) stays abroad for study or internship, language or specialty classes, or group trips. In 2011, 267 universities awarded over 7,100 PROMOS scholarships. The DAAD also coordinates the initiative Go East, which aims to interest more students and graduates in study and research trips to middle and eastern European countries, and is also responsible for the ERASMUS programmes of the European Union.

In addition, the BMBF funds:

  • Student and instructor exchanges with the USA through the Fulbright Commission.
  • The international funding of internships for FH students through the Deutsche Gesellschaft für International Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).
  • Master programmes at the College of Europe in Bruges and Natolin (Poland) though Europäisches Bewegung Deutschland.
  • The special German-French relationship is expressed through funding of the Deutsch-Französischen Hoschschule (DFH) through both regions. The DFH is a group of German and French universities. Funding goes to exchanges in binational study programmes as well as doctoral and research programmes.
  • The exchange of academics through the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH).

The most important funding organization for the international exchange of post-docs and scientists is the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH). With funds provided by the BMBF, the AvH supports young German post docs looking to travel abroad to work with former Humboldt scholarship winners (Feodor Lynen Programme). In addition, the AvH awards the renowned Humboldt research prize to the best researchers from abroad for their life’s work, together with an invitation to carry out research in Germany.


GATE-Germany is a joint initiative of the DAAD and HRK that supports German universities in advertising Germany’s education and research landscape abroad. The wide variety of offers is tailored to the specific needs of each university and includes international education trade shows, network conferences, application texts and on-site advertisement, advanced training events and a book series on higher education advertisement.

A particular focus of GATE-Germany involves supporting universities with the use of new media. With this, our institutions of higher education were able to significantly increase the number of interested students and young scientists from abroad. The information portals and provide strong support and information on studying, researching, and daily life in Germany. The standardized German language test TestDaF, which can also be taken outside of Germany, aims to ease language preparation.

The marketing of higher education will continue to differentiate in the future, in order to better meet the specific needs of universities, graduate schools and departments, as well as the individual target groups of bachelor, master and doctoral students.

German Institutions of Higher Education on the International Education Market

The DAAD programme “Study opportunities at German universities abroad,” helps German institutions of higher education to establish their course and programmes worldwide. Until recently, this market was dominated essentially by Anglo-Saxon countries. 24 German university projects in foreign countries are currently receiving funding. These range from

  • complete universities like the German University in Cairo (GUC), which is coordinated on the German side by the Universität Ulm in cooperation with the universities of Stuttgart and Tübingen, or the German Jordanian University (GJU – in cooperation with a consortium of around 70 German universities under the leadership of the Hochschule Magdeburg-Stendal),
  • to subsidiary German institutes like the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech) with the German partner institute RWTH Aachen, or the FAU Busan Campus of the Friederich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nurnberg in South Korea,
  • to individual specialized programmes like economic computer science in Russia (cooperation with the TFH Wildau), environmental engineering and information technology in China (with FH Lübeck), social science in Turkey (with HU Berlin), or biomedical science in Argentina (with U Freiburg).

A detailed list of all funded projects can be found here.

This engagement promises participating German institutions of higher education not only an international reputation and the opportunity to attract highly qualified young academics for their own study and research institutions – it also promises an outstanding foundation for long-term cooperation with participating countries for the benefit of their own young academics. In these projects, German companies see the chance to gain outstanding trained specialist, and for the countries themselves, it means an often highly sought opportunity to expand and develop their own system of higher education. For this reason, crucial investments are locally financed.

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© 09/04/2015 00:06 Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung