Research is best conducted in an international context - this has long been the case at German universities. In order to strengthen their reputations as leading academic destinations, German universities are making a considerable effort to attract the best postdocs from abroad. And they have been succeeding, as a recent study shows.
© Alex Slobodkin - iStockphoto.com"Since 2007, we have been steadily improving our international strategy for recruiting scholars from abroad," says Dr Uwe Muuss, director of the International Office at Göttingen University. This strategy does not only mean ensuring that the university has a presence at international academic careers fairs or advertising postdoc positions worldwide, but also includes generating a certain quality of life at the university itself. "Besides the renown our university has gained through its numerous Max Planck Institutes and the excellent research conducted here, the personal recommendations the university receives are definitely an important reason scholars from abroad choose us," says Muuss, confidently. "That means it's not only the workplace that needs to be just right, but everything else that is connected with it." Göttingen University's Welcome Centre is responsible for ensuring the best possible start for one's life as a researcher in Göttingen. Not only does the Centre help arrange suitable accommodations and childcare for academics and their families, it also makes life much easier in many other respects. "We help with administrative formalities, assist with official paperwork, and organise intercultural exchanges," says Muuss.
Dr Yoshifumi Tokiwa has experienced first-hand how such services make settling in much easier. Dr Tokiwa is carrying out postdoctoral research at the Institute of Solid State Physics and has been living in Göttingen since October 2008. "I settled in quite quickly. There are lots of foreign academics in the city, and so people are very approachable," says the researcher from Japan, who earned his PhD at Osaka University.
Focus on Germany, 2011How researchers from abroad view Germany.
- The study surveyed approximately 1,700 international Alexander von Humboldt Foundation research fellows and 1,200 university hosts.
- 91% of those surveyed expressed interest in returning to Germany. Approximately 70% cited the unusual support they received from their host institution as the reason why they would return, and 81% cited the "very good" or "good" atmosphere.
- The hosts were also satisfied: 84% of them believed the collaboration resulted in meaningful contributions to the field.
- Some general aspects of living in Germany were viewed critically, however, especially in the areas of childcare and bureaucracy.
The University of Hamburg has also recognised the importance of providing such services. "A good level of support from the university is an important factor when competing internationally for the best scholars. Even though the academic reputation of an institution is still one of the main criteria for attracting postdocs and leading researchers, it is increasingly other external factors, such as the Dual Career Service or simply the location, that determine the choice of university," says Prof. Dr Dieter Lenzen, president of the University of Hamburg. The latest addition to his university is the International Housing Office, an accommodations service for visiting academics. Finding affordable housing near the university in Hamburg is difficult. The new service connects those offering private accommodations with visiting academics. The university team helps make sure that the arrangements suit the visiting scholars' particular requirements.
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