DAAD says collaboration for sustainability is priority

With German federal elections coming up in September, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has presented a discussion paper outlining its chief activities in the coming years. The paper highlights the significance of international academic collaboration in tackling global challenges and achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

“We’re living in the Anthropocene age, in which humans and human action are becoming the all-decisive factor in Earth’s development,” said DAAD President Joybrato Mukherjee, announcing his organisation’s priorities for the next German parliament.

“Since we are commonly inhabiting, shaping and destroying this planet, we have to enhance international exchange, expand academic collaboration and see ourselves as a community sharing global responsibility,” he said.

DAAD regards the personal networks of students and academics as the foundation of cross-border academic cooperation and stresses that over the coming four years, efforts made at this level towards cooperation have to be boosted by efficient and flexible grant programmes.

“Setting out from these networks, the aim has to be to promote institutional collaboration between German universities and their partners across the world, for example with transnational centres of expertise and excellence,” Mukherjee explained.

Only an excellently internationally networked research and university landscape could successfully meet its responsibility for the development of sustainable solutions to the urgent problems humankind is facing.

In addition, the 10-item paper refers to maintaining academic exchange in times of shrinking spaces for research and teaching as well as ever-progressing national egotisms.

“Growing authoritarian and totalitarian governance represents a considerable threat to academic collaboration and the free exchange of thoughts and ideas,” Mukherjee noted, adding that his organisation would increasingly offer safe havens for students and junior scientists and scholars who were in danger.

Furthermore, DAAD would intensively campaign for the European model of academic freedom and university self-governance and advocate it worldwide.

German universities need additional advice and support to also develop and maintain cross-border collaboration in difficult situations, DAAD points out. It intends to make its offices and German language units in more than 100 foreign countries available for this purpose.

DAAD also notes that the restrictions which students have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic must not result in an entire generation suffering disadvantages – neither in Germany nor elsewhere in the world.

It holds that while digital technologies provide additional options for international exchange, personal and physical mobility is of special significance, particularly for students and scientists and scholars in the early stages of their careers.

However, the organisation stresses the role of digitalisation, virtual collaboration and internationally accessible digital systems in providing a basis for future institutional network structures.

International academic collaboration should follow the approach of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which see sustainability and a secure future not only as a task to be addressed by the countries of the Global South but by all nations.

Vanguard role of education

Special incentives ought to be provided for academic collaboration to support the vanguard role of education and research in achieving the SDGs and fulfilling the UN’s Agenda 2030, DAAD says.

A further aspect addressed in the paper is that while international academic collaboration can make a crucial contribution to achieving the SDGs, travel by students and academics does also burden the environment and the climate. Here, DAAD seeks to encourage climate-considerate travelling, maintain close dialogue with universities and act as a trendsetter in this respect.

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