Science is international by nature. In this respect, internationalization within the scientific community is not an "add-on" that may be seen as dispensable for a university, but is one of the fundamental conditions for a university’s performance, innovation, and future viability in international competition and cooperation. Internationalization is or must be tightly interwoven into higher education’s three central missions – research, teaching, and knowledge transfer – and facilitates the institution’s sustainable and agile development. These core truths summarize this relationship:
- Internationalization is a catalyst in shaping the scientific and academic landscape.
- Internationalization drives excellent research.
- Internationalization enables innovative teaching.
- Internationalization contributes to an open and tolerant society.
These truths particularly apply to Universität Hamburg. As a flagship university located in a cosmopolitan and transnational port metropolis – the city itself has a long tradition of global trade relations and strong international communities – the University has the best prerequisites not only to benefit as an institution from international exchange and to make a mark worldwide in research, teaching, knowledge exchange as well as administration and governance, but also to fulfill its duty in shaping the path – through innovation and cooperation – for a sustainable future.
To fully embody the above truths as an institution, the University has carried out manifold strategic, tactical and operative measures over the course of the past decade and across the breadth of the university. Measures range from external audits of the internationalization process itself (2011/2012; 2015-2018) to the establishment of a strategic partnership network, itself resulting in numerous joint research and teaching projects as well as new exchange opportunities for students and staff, to the implementation of an annual summer school format (the Hamburg International Summer School) in University profile areas, such as particle physics or health economics, to balance mobility numbers and to serve as a recruitment instrument for said profile areas.
However, strategy and its related measures must be capable of effectuative adaption as circumstances demand. In light of two global challenges facing not just higher education, but indeed society at large, over the last several years, namely increasing geopolitical volatility and conflict and the COVID19 pandemic, the University sees a heightened necessity for commitment to a strategic global focus and, at the same time, the need to re-assess what indeed internationalization means for the institution in a world at flux.
As such, the University has adapted its internationalization strategy to reflect this changed context and, to a certain degree, the new role it sees for itself. It has formulated the following strategic courses of action to guide its work and progress:
- As a flagship university, Universität Hamburg offers a platform for internationally oriented dialogue on geopolitical challenges and changes and their effects on global knowledge and knowledge systems. The University shapes this discourse as well as the international higher education landscape through internationally visible formats, many created with local and international research and education partners, and uses these formats to mold a more open and more diverse regional knowledge and innovation system.
- As a player in this dialogue, the University develops solutions for these challenges, ones which it utilizes in its own operations, thereby ensuring sustainable institutional resilience. The institution benefits from its members’ international experiences and contacts and engages them in said dialogue.
- Cooperation and collaboration within global networks allow the University to achieve a high level of innovation in research, teaching, and knowledge exchange. Academic staff at Universität Hamburg conduct research with renowned international partners and make use of the University’s funding and support opportunities in order to forge sustainable collaborations. Additionally, through such partnerships they create teaching formats for students to truly access “a gateway to the world” and “a gateway to tomorrow.”
- As an international and cosmopolitan research institution, the University opens its doors to international researchers and students and offers all status groups adequate and appropriate formats for international and inter- and transcultural exchange and networking to facilitate both student and staff development. It thereby serves as a role model within the Hamburg Metropolitan Region for a tolerant, diverse, internationally competent society.
At a micro-level, key targets include: increasing the number of international researchers and instructors in order to diversify the academic staff and to integrate more deeply additional perspectives and experiences into the University’s missions and campus life; re-thinking and expanding internationalization formats in teaching beyond the traditional norm, placing a special focus on digital formats, in order to provide a greater number of students with international and inter- and transculturally diverse experiences and thereby better prepare students for an increasingly globalized and digitized job market; creating at the regional, national, and international level innovative formats for geopolitical and higher education debate with diverse stakeholders. Internationalization activities are thusly intertwined with sustainable development across the institution and contribute to its strategic success.