On 21st and  22nd September 2015, Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park near London hosted the ‘German-British Seminar on HE Research Co-operation for Representatives of Russell Group and U15/TU9 Universities’, organised by the DAAD London Office. Representatives took part from eleven German universities in the higher education alliances TU9 and German U15, and from ten British Russell Group universities:

RWTH Aachen, FU Berlin, TU Berlin, U Bonn, TU Darmstadt, TU Dresden, U Hamburg,    U Heidelberg, U Mainz, U Stuttgart
University of Cambridge, Durham University, University of Leeds, Queen Mary University London, University College London, University of Nottingham, University of Southampton, University of Warwick, University of York

For the most part, representatives held the position of Dean, Pro-Rector, or Pro- Vice-Chancellor at their universities, or held senior administrative positions such as Head of the International Department or Head of the Department for (International) Research Co-operation.

Speakers from both countries expressed a particularly strong interest in building closer links in the area of doctoral training. In the UK, doctoral training is mostly, but not exclusively, carried out in ‘Doctoral Training Programmes’. In Germany, likewise, it is frequently run within structured programmes, for instance in DFG-funded (German Research Foundation) international graduate colleges or other graduate schools.

In order to bring young academics from both countries together, short programmes such as summer and winter schools could work particularly well. Both sides are very interested in creating such a programme for STEM/MINT disciplines. The view that such short programmes frequently offer starting points for further co-operation, in addition to the academic subject matter they deal with, was supported by the participants at the seminar.

Many also expressed the opinion that this tool of international co-operation, which opens the door to international career paths in science, continues to play an important role for young Post-docs in the time after they have completed their PhD.

The closing panel, comprising representatives from German and British research funding organisations and higher education associations (DFG – German Research Foundation, KoWi – European Liaison Office of the German Research Organisations, EPSRC – Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, UUK – Universities UK) gave a presentation under the title ‘Bilateral and European Research Funding – how can British and German HE institutions further improve their co-operation’. The discussion was led by Professor Hans Jürgen Prömel, President of TU Darmstadt and TU9.

In international standings, universities from both countries belong to the world leaders. This is attested, for example, by statistics on co-authorship of scientific publications, which speakers from each university emphasised using their own statistics: after those from the USA, academics from Germany are most frequently named as co-authors on the publications of UK-based university researchers.

With regard to British researchers named as co-authors on German publications, the situation is almost identical. Furthermore, this trend of British and German prominence can also be seen in the shares held in many EU-financed funding programmes, where German and British HE institutions occupy the two top spot. Structural and financial differences, which have increased rather than decreased over the past few years in the area of first degrees and Master’s degrees, have less significance in the more flexibly organised system of doctoral training. Furthermore, there is, in principle, greater financial scope for  doctoral training through research and mobility funding organisations and the research-based industry.

The seminar opened up new perspectives on the topic and, as a consequence, the DAAD will endeavour to identify new funding formats and other means of support. For further reading please see the Times Higher Education article: “UK-German research powerhouse could be even bigger” from 26 September by Matthew Reisz.