Saarland University – A European university with an international outlook

Three questions for Astrid Fellner

Vice-President for Europe and International Affairs

Saarland University likes to refer to itself as a 'European University'. Why is that?

As a higher education institution that was founded with both German and French roots, Saarland University has always had a strong European focus. The University is also clearly European because of its location in the heart of Europe – in a region that defines itself by shared borders between Germany, France and Luxembourg and by its close proximity to Belgium and thus to many of the institutions of the European Union. Saarland University is therefore in a position to breath new life into the European idea and to promote the European spirit, to make multilingualism and cross-border study and research a normal feature of academic life, and to be a model European university.

In fact, Saarland University has taken things one step further and has made Europe one of its three core strategic areas. Within its core strategic area 'Europe', the University addresses European issues and topics in both its research and teaching work, it provides an interdisciplinary platform for conducting research into Europe and for studying global trans-European interrelationships. The European dimension at Saarland University is embedded within the numerous cooperation agreements with partner universities around the world. As a result, students can choose from a very broad range of study-abroad options while researchers have access to global scientific and academic networks. All this is underscored by the close collaborative relationships that exist between university research teams and the numerous internationally focused research institutes located on campus.

What do a European focus and the cooperative programmes in the Saar-Lor-Lux region actually mean for students and researchers at the University?

The proportion of international students at Saarland University, particularly those from Western Europe, is well above average. The University offers a broad spectrum of cross-border academic programmes many of which lead to a double-degree or triple-degree qualification. Most of these degree programmes have a specific French component and are run jointly with partner universities in France and Luxembourg. Students of all faculties at Saarland University can also work towards a supplementary qualification in European studies (Zertifikat Europaicum) that allows them to incorporate a specialist interdisciplinary European dimension into their main programme of study. Each year Saarland University plays host to a guest professor from a designated European country.

The 'University of the Greater Region' (UniGR) has also been developed successfully over the last few years. UniGR is an alliance of universities in the neighbouring regions of Saarland (Germany), Lorraine (France), Luxembourg, Wallonia (Belgium) and Rhineland Palatinate (Germany) and offers the chance to promote the European spirit on a smaller stage. The absence of bureaucratic red tape means that students can readily participate in the courses and modules offered at the partner institutions, while academics and research staff can readily engage in cross-border collaborative projects. Treating Europe itself as an object of research has brought scientists and academics at Saarland University together to work on cooperative projects that go beyond the traditional boundaries of academic disciplines, opening up new horizons and broadening perspectives.

Some time ago Saarland University drew up its internationalization strategy. What new measures have been taken to implement this strategy?

In addition to the work we are doing developing the core strategic area 'Europe' with its main focus on France, another key building block in the University's internationalization strategy is that of expanding and improving our efforts to make the campus a welcoming and inclusive space for international students. We have already made significant progress in this area. For example, the Welcome Center provides initial assistance and orientation for visiting international scholars, researchers and students, while the Masterkolleg is a new central service unit that offers information, advice and support to international students enrolled in Master's degree programmes. Another key aspect of our internationalization strategy is encouraging and promoting multilingualism at all levels on campus. Saarland University was also a pioneer in providing higher education opportunities to refugees. It was one of the first universities in Germany to create the opportunity for refugees to study for a Bachelors degree in STEM subjects without needing to provide evidence of a higher education entrance qualification. The University is pleased to be able to support young talented refugees, to help them integrate into society and to improve their options for the future.