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Wissenschaftsrat publishes recommendations on internationalisation of German higher education

Already in July of this year, the Wissenschaftsrat (German Council of Science and Humanities) published a 141-page report with recommendations for the internationalisation of German higher education. The task of the well-reputed institution is to advise the Federal and Länder governments on key questions relating to the substantive and structural development of the German higher education and science system. Many recommendations of the report are “usual suspects”, which are unlikely to overwhelm its readers. But the document also contains new, innovative and exciting suggestions. Above all, it puts international academic cooperation into a context of education and science diplomacy, thus responding to anti-democratic, populist and anti-academic and -intellectual tendencies in Europe and globally. 

An example of the latter is a whole set of recommendations relating to cooperation with foreign universities and institutions which demands that the German partner insists on sound academic standards and on values such as academic freedom, freedom of speech, cosmopolitanism and cultural diversity instead of nationalist approaches. This does not mean that the report discourages cooperation with academic institutions in authoritarian countries. On the contrary, it encourages such contacts, but as a means of ‘infecting’ the foreign institutions and authorities with an integrity and quality ‘virus’. For this purpose, but also for others, the Wissenschaftsrat proposes the creation of a “central advisory service”, run by German ACA member DAAD or the country’s rectors’ conference, HRK, which would advise higher education institutions on appropriate rules for cooperation, for example in the form of help for the formulation MoUs or intergovernmental agreements on scholarship and other cooperation schemes. This would be also one of the purposes of foreign-located offices promoting German higher education and research abroad, which already exist. Rather than promoting German higher education with the sole aim of attracting students and scholars to Germany, they should also advocate German academic and political values.  

The report puts a considerable emphasis on efforts needed to improve internationalisation in Germany’s college sector, the Fachhochschulen. The authors - probably plausibly - appear to believe that internationalisation is less advanced in this sector than in the universities.  More into the ‘conventional wisdom’ section, though making sense, fall demands that higher education institutions should develop institutional internationalisation strategies, as well as language policies. While the report in no way demands that German higher education ‘goes English’, it speaks in favour of the increased use of “foreign languages”, if and where this is possible and makes sense. 

DAAD and the Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation will be pleased by the recommendation to markedly increase their budgets. So is ACA.  


More information here  (German only)

Click on Executive Summary- PDF download