What Is the Berlin University Alliance?
Answers to the most frequently asked questions about the alliance of the three major Berlin universities and Charité
Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and Technische Universität Berlin, along with Charité –Universitätsmedizin Berlin are applying jointly in the German government’s Excellence Strategy competition under the name Berlin University Alliance. The new, nationwide funding competition, which follows the Excellence Initiative, is intended to further strengthen academic excellence, research cooperation, and the profile of universities in Germany.
In the fall of 2018, seven clusters of excellence, i.e., larger research projects, were approved for the four Berlin partners, which permitted them to apply for the excellence title together as a university alliance. The decision as to who will receive the excellence title will be announced on July 19, 2019.
In addition to the Berlin University Alliance, 17 other universities and another alliance are in the running. Up to eleven Universities of Excellence will be funded beginning in November 2019. If successful, the Berlin University Alliance can apply for a total of 196 million euros in seven years to implement its strategic plans.
Is the Berlin University Alliance something special?
Yes, Berlin’s universities and Charité have been working together on many different levels – especially in research– for decades. In relation to each other, however, competition was often still in the foreground. The aim of the network is to achieve a new quality of cooperation in which the wide range of potential is used to a greater extent than before, for example, to provide even better support for young researchers, to jointly use complex laboratories and expensive large-scale equipment with less bureaucracy, or to set common standards in research.
What are the Alliance’s research goals?
New technologies, climate change, globalization– the world seems increasingly complex and complicated. Many questions and topics that concern society and research are so large and complex that they can only be investigated successfully with the cooperation of outstanding scholars and scientists. This is where the partners of the Berlin University Alliance come in. They want to minimize barriers between institutions and create a common creative space for first-class research.
How will researchers benefit?
The Berlin University Alliance is planning research competitions for members of the involved institutions. It also relies on networking with other research institutes as well as cultural and political stakeholders in the Berlin area. The Alliance intends to include national and international cooperation as well. This will not only enable greater cooperation in research, but will also facilitate the transfer of knowledge and technology into society, for example through business start-ups.
What advantages will there be for younger researchers?
Young researchers in particular are expected to benefit from the new cooperation. The Berlin University Alliance is working on a joint career space for young researchers with the aim of jointly improving offers for exchange, qualification, advice, and support, but also career opportunities. Cooperation with non-university partners, both locally and worldwide, is particularly important in this area.
Will there also be benefits for students?
Yes, winning the Universities of Excellence status in the Excellence Strategy would attract more leading researchers to Berlin; both students and researchers of the participating institutions would benefit from this. In addition, for the first time, the conditions of the German Excellence competition include the possibility to apply for funding to promote teaching.
The Berlin University Alliance aims to further simplify mutual access to courses. It focuses on the digitalization of teaching and research-based teaching. In this way, cutting-edge research can be more comprehensively integrated into teaching than before, and the successful model of research-based learning will be further expanded.
Does an alliance entail more administration?
No, the aim is rather to reduce the administrative hurdles to cooperation. This can be achieved, for example, by creating common infrastructures. This does not require the establishment of a new joint administration. Legal and structural frameworks and regulations that minimize administrative burdens are the right way forward.
What are the advantages of a common infrastructure?
Highly specialized laboratories, largescale scientific equipment, databases, and communication technologies are expensive, and it makes sense to share them for economic reasons. Therefore, a joint research infrastructure is to be expanded in the future and the existing infrastructure used more effectively by facilitating access for researchers from all the participating institutions.
Why is the alliance good for Berlin?
The aim is to make Berlin even more attractive as a research location through an integrated research environment and to further develop the city as one of the leading research hubs in Europe. The German capital already offers unique framework conditions: it stands apart with its density of research institutions, universities, museums, cultural and political institutions as well as start-ups and other business partners.
The benefits of the Berlin University Alliance, for example through outstanding research findings and excellently trained graduates, will further promote the capital as a location for business, health, education, culture, and politics.
Will the Berlin University Alliance partners work together internationally?
The four Berlin partners have several specific international networks with numerous cooperation partners and, in part, operate representative offices abroad. The Alliance established its first joint international cooperation with the University of Oxford in 2017. Together, the five institutions recently approved 450000 euros in funding for 29 research projects in which researchers from Berlin and Oxford will work together. This collaboration is intended as a prototype for further strategic international cooperation projects of the Alliance.
This text originally appeared on February 22, 2019, in a Tagesspiegel newspaper supplement published by Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Unversität Berlin, and Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin.