Educating top scholars and scientists – together
In 2007 and 2012, in the two funding rounds of the German Excellence Initiative, several Graduate Schools were selected as independent projects. They serve to train doctoral candidates in an outstanding research environment. Graduates complete a several-year program that encompasses various activities, including colloquia and subject-specific conferences, research phases, and opportunities to spend time abroad.
Joint graduate schools offer many advantages. In many fields the advisors supervising doctoral study have complementary areas of focus in their research. Doctoral candidates can take advantage of an optimum environment for their projects, and Berlin also offers a broad range of academic offerings, including talks, workshops, and conferences. Colloquia give candidates a chance to present their work during various phases of their projects and benefit from suggestions from advisors and other doctoral candidates alike. Candidates are involved in day-to-day research activities and, in some cases in projects, and they are encouraged to give talks and organize conferences and workshops themselves. One factor that aids them in this is the fact that they are writing their dissertations within an excellent cross-institutional academic network right from the start.
For that reason, the applications for five out of nine of the Graduate Schools in Berlin that have received funding under the Excellence Initiative jointly organized by the German federal and state governments were submitted by two or three of the alliance partners acting in concert – and the other institutions focus on cooperation as well. For example, the universities actively foster ties with scholars and scientists at partner institutions in order to tap into particular expertise in fields that might not be present within their own institutions.
This dialogue benefits the fields of natural sciences, technology, engineering, and humanities alike. The principal investigators – an institution’s main scholars and scientists – at the Graduate School of North American Studies at the long-standing John F. Kennedy Institute at Freie Universität, for example, also include an urban sociologist from Humboldt-Universität and a historian with a focus on urban studies from Technische Universität Berlin.
In addition to the nine Graduate Schools selected in the first funding line of the German Excellence Initiative, Clusters of Excellence (2nd funding line), also educate doctoral students in graduate schools or programs.
- For example, doctoral students at the Excellence Cluster Topoi, based at Freie Universität Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, in addition to their participation in research projects, receive comprehensive support and training within one of five doctoral programs in the Berlin Graduate School of Ancient Studies (BerGSAS).
- The Cluster of Excellence UniCat, based at Technische Universität Berlin with involvement of researchers from Freie Universität and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, hosts the Berlin International Graduate School of Natural Sciences and Engineering (BIG-NSE).
- The NeuroCure Cluster of Excellence, based at Charité, the medical school operated jointly by Freie Universität Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, plays a pivotal role in the International Graduate Program Medical Neurosciences.
- The Image Knowledge Gestaltung Cluster of Excellence set up a structured doctoral program, also entitled “Image Knowledge Gestaltung,” to provide supervised interdisciplinary training for doctoral candidates.