On 5th and 6th March 2018 the seminar “Challenges and Opportunities for British-German Research Co-operation in the Future” has been hosted by the DAAD London branch in Bloomsbury House, London.

As indicated in the title, the overarching theme of the seminar was the possible future of academic cooperation between Germany and the United Kingdom in light of the prospective withdrawal of the UK from the European Union, and what possibilities or challenges lie ahead. The composition of topics and invited speakers reflected the bilateral nature of the seminar.

Representatives took part from 10 German universities in the higher education alliances TU9 and German U15, and from 12 British Russell Group universities:

Freie Universität Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin, Universität Bonn, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Universität Frankfurt, Universität Hamburg, Universität Heidelberg, Technische Universität München, Universität Münster, Universität Stuttgart

University of Birmingham, University of Bristol, University of Glasgow, University of Leeds, Imperial College London, Queen Mary University of London, University College London, University of Manchester, Newcastle University, University of Nottingham, University of Oxford, University of Southampton

Additionally, representatives from interest groups – German Rectors’ Conference (HRK), Universities UK (UUK) and the European University Association (EUA) among others – and research institutes, such as the Leibniz Association, Fraunhofer UK and the Bundesanstalt fuer Materialforschung und –pruefung (BAM) as an example of German Federal Research were present.

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.

To mention just two: Vivienne Stern, Director Universities UK International, emphasised that while the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union would probably present a challenge, there is a consensus that any obstacles hopefully will be overcome in order to ensure fruitful cooperation in the future.
Lutz-Peter Berg, Head of Science and Innovation at the Swiss Embassy provided a crucial third-party perspective into the matter when he anticipated a “View from outside the EU”.

There was a lively round of discussions following each presentation, with some commenters noting that the strong bilateral scientific cooperation links between universities in Germany and the UK were possibly to face new challenges due to a non-existing European framework in which they currently thrive. This means that future collaboration between institutes of higher education in both countries may necessitate more effort than it did in the past.

The overall conclusion of the seminar has been the notion that there is a strong will from both sides to continue cooperating as before, however the exact form and nature of future cooperation depends on the legal framework that would accompany the UK’s exit from the EU and the status it might have afterwards. There was also consensus that there is no short term replacement at hand for European programmes such as Horizon 2020 and, even more important, the EU’s succeeding Ninth Framework Programme (FP9).