20 September 2018, No. 25/2018, updated on 22 October 2018

Study: research alumni increasingly important for German universities

Survey of 88 universities in Germany shows growing strategic importance of cultivating relations with international guest researchers.

How can German universities stay in contact with international researchers who have switched to another university? And how can they make productive use of their ties to these research alumni, such as to enhance their reputation or maintain their networks? Research alumni work revolves around such issues. It has become an indispensable element of internationalisation strategies for many institutions. This is documented by a study conducted on behalf of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation at 88 German universities with a strong research profile.

Approximately one-third of the universities surveyed report that the targeted use of research alumni in connection with a university's strategic tasks is of great importance for its internationalisation. Sixty percent of the universities surveyed noted that research alumni work has increased in importance at their institution in the last five years. These 60% include a considerable number of large universities with more than 25,000 students. Eighty-four percent of these large universities say that research alumni work has increased in importance. This figure was just 73% in the preceding survey conducted in 2015.

Research alumni as well are increasingly aware of the benefits that maintaining contact with their former host university offers them. Sixty-seven percent of the universities with centralised research alumni work say that research alumni are “very willing” or “quite willing” to participate in the strategic tasks these universities are involved in.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, together with the German university newspaper “duz”, has published the results of the study and a review of the Foundation's work in this area. The current duz SPECIAL “The Future of Research Alumni – Putting the potential offered by international visiting researchers to strategic use” summarises the key findings and insights from the Humboldt Foundation's ten years of experience in supporting and promoting these activities and offers guidance for building up and developing research alumni work in a professional manner.

The surge in research alumni work was made possible through the International Research Marketing project being conducted jointly by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the German Academic Exchange Service, the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). It is part of the Research in Germany initiative.

The network of research alumni advisors that has been built up over the course of a decade will meet in future at Alumni-clubs.net, the association of alumni organisations in German-speaking countries and regions.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

Every year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation enables more than 2,000 researchers from all over the world to spend time researching in Germany. The Foundation maintains a network of well over 29,000 Humboldtians from all disciplines in more than 140 countries worldwide – including 55 Nobel Prize winners.

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