More Internationalism Required

Education, science, and research have to become more internationalized in Germany, as well as in other countries. This is important not only from the perspective of Germany's future economic and political status in the world, but also because of the great potential for cooperating and developing partnerships with other nations, especially emerging and developing countries.

Earlier this year, the coalition parties in the German Bundestag brought a motion "Strengthening Germany's international attractiveness and efficiency as a scientific and research location for foreign students and young scientists" (Bundestagsdrucksache 14/6209). With this motion, they asked the federal government to mobilize all available resources in order to implement quickly the desperately needed internationalization of the German scientific and academic community.

A New World?

In spite of the recent terror attacks in the United States and the fact that several terrorists were apparently students at German universities, the German University Rectors' Conference (HRK) has urged German policy-makers not to step back from its initial plan of changing immigration law to foster greater internationalism at German universities. Changes in current laws should not lead to difficulties in obtaining residence and work permits for foreign students, scientists, and researchers, the HRK's senate said in a statement. Universities in particular, with their significant scientific potential, are ideally placed to ensure a sophisticated discussion about the questions raised by the terrorist attacks. The HRK senate urged the German Ministry for the Interior to pass the draft law on to the Bundestag for discussion.

The HRK's president, Prof. Klaus Landfried, explained the universities' interest in the new immigration law: "With its core regulations, it will improve the status of foreign students in Germany. They finally will be able to obtain a residence permit for the whole duration of the program at once, will be allowed to work, and will also have a period of time after completion of the program to find a job." Current regulations require that foreign graduates leave the country immediately upon graduation, a situation that is widely regarded as nonsensical within Germany's academic community.

--Eick von Ruschkowski

With new ideas, considerably more money, and real will power, the federal government has been introducing new developments in this area since 1998. Now, concerted action from policy-makers, together with the scientific community, industry, and other groups, is necessary. Countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States identified the potential of internationalism and started to act much sooner. Therefore, they are already a step ahead of Germany. This is especially true in terms of the status of young scientists, the internationalization of degree program structures, proactive information and advice about career and research opportunities, university marketing, and the integration of successful nonnative graduates into the country's job market.

It was a good move by both the federal governments and the Länder (states) to agree on two new goals: increasing the number of foreign students by 50% and doubling the number of German students who spend time abroad during their studies. Both goals are part of a sustainable concept for the future. Currently, only 7% of students, 5% of professors, and 5% of Ph.D. candidates are from outside of Germany; only 10% of German students have spent time in other countries during their studies. The new BAföG (German student support law) regulations are another improvement in this field, because they make Germans eligible when they are studying in other EU countries. The federal funds for the internationalization of higher education and research have been increased by 140% between the 1998 budget and the 2002 draft budget. A number of support programs have been initiated, from internationally focused degree programs and Graduiertenkollegs (specialized research groups for Ph.D. candidates and postdocs) to a new standardized test of German as foreign language.

Excellent young scientists from all over the world are now supported by DM 170 million (approx. ?87 million) of additional funds. Just recently, the GATE Germany consortium with the German Academic Exchange Service has started its initiative for a systematic and professional approach to marketing Germany as a location for research and higher education.

The introduction of internationally recognized degrees, such as bachelor's and master's degrees, has already proven successful. This must be further developed where necessary. The junior professor position will replace the Habilitation as qualification for a full professorship in most cases, thus contributing to the international compatibility of the German academic system. It will also help foster scientific careers for young scientists at an earlier age than presently possible.

The "brain drain/brain gain" discussion, which is being held in many scientific journals and other media, targets academic reform in Germany only to a limited extent. In order to foster internationalization, it does not seem desirable to keep German graduates within Germany, while at the same time compensating for a lack of internationalism by recruiting foreign scientists. In the field of top scientists, internationalism has already become a reality, so political intervention does not seem to be appropriate here. There are possible exceptions, such as improving general conditions with changes in residential permits and the so-called green card initiative. It can almost be taken for granted that intellectually gifted students and scientists will seek to add some international experience to their careers through their own initiative. But this knowledge opens up the opportunity to attract more foreign students to German universities by providing the necessary incentives. The political goal should be directed toward a "brain exchange," meaning an exchange of top-level scientists. Basic conditions at universities, such as the mentoring of students and young scientists, have to support this effort and need to be improved for both Germans and non-Germans.

In addition to the points already mentioned, programs in other countries should be established to reach students who would like to enroll in programs offered by German universities but who cannot or do not want to leave their home countries for various reasons. This important way of training high-profile scientists in foreign countries--especially in emerging countries--is necessary for development of their own countries, and it also ensures that they develop a specific relationship with Germany. This would represent a big step toward Germany's further internationalization in the area of science and research.

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