United Kingdom

The UK’s university system is one of the highest-performing higher education systems in the world. UK universities conduct outstanding research and are also extremely attractive to international students. The UK is one of the most popular destinations for German students studying abroad. There is also intensive cooperation between German and UK institutions with respect to university research.
As a result, there is a close relationship between the German Rectors' Conference (HRK) and its British counterpart, Universities UK (UUK).


The future of British-German higher education relations

Professor Dame Beer, Minister Gyimah and Professor Alt
Professor Dame Beer, Minister Gyimah and
Professor Alt

8. November 2018 The United Kingdom's exit from the European Union in March 2019 will not be without repercussions on British-German academic relations. The talks held by HRK President Alt on Thursday with a delegation of the British rectors’ conference, Universities UK (UUK) in Berlin centred on possible scenarios for the future of university cooperation between German and British universities. Both Professor Dame Janet Beer, UUK President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool, and the HRK President highlighted the need to find a suitable framework so that cooperation can continue to flourish. The attendance of Sam Gyimah, MP and Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation also added extra value to the talks. The minister stressed the special importance that the British government attaches to Anglo-German cooperation in higher education.

Joint statement from UUK and HRK on the importance of continued academic collaboration

8. November 2018 On Thursday 8 November, Universities UK President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool, Professor Dame Janet Beer, met with the President of Germany's national rectors' conference, HRK, Professor Peter-Andre Alt, to discuss how to maintain the current high levels of research collaboration and staff and student exchange between the UK and Germany, post-Brexit.
Following the meeting the Presidents issued the following joint statement:

"The UK and Germany have a long history of collaboration in research, with over 11,854 current collaborations through European research projects. We exchange students in both directions to mutual benefit, with over 13,400 German students in the UK and more than 3,500 UK students having studied, volunteered or worked for a period in Germany as part of their studies in 2016/2017. We value this co-operation highly and we have pledged to cultivate and encourage further academic collaboration. We must work hard to ensure that our nearest neighbours - with whom we share values, research ambitions and culture - remain as close to us as they are now."

Professor Beer comments: "Education and research have changed the world for the better and we should not forget this in these politically uncertain times."

Professor Alt comments: "British and German universities share a longstanding history of successful collaboration both in joint research and the exchange of students and researchers. We are convinced that this history must be continued for our mutual benefit and societal purpose."

They continue: "We urge our respective political leaders to find a way to preserve this co-operation and look at the possibility of full association to both the future Framework Programme for Research, Horizon Europe, and to the Erasmus programme for staff and student exchange of the UK as a serious option."

Universities as centres of a diversified research system

18. October 2018 This week HRK President Peter-André Alt gave a speech at Pembroke College at the invitation of the University of Cambridge. In his remarks, Alt highlighted the central position that universities occupy in the German research system. Excellence in the German academic and research system, the HRK President said in Cambridge, is deliberately not concentrated in a small number of institutions. Instead, as he explained, the German system is characterised by a high degree of regional and task-specific differentiation, laying the essential groundwork for that excellence. The future of British-German relations in higher education was the main topic at a meeting between the HRK President and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Professor Stephen Toope.

British-German academic relations

Ambassador Wittig and Professor Alt
HRK-President Prof. Dr. Peter-André Alt and
the German Ambassador in London, Dr. Peter Wittig
Copyright: German Embassy London

17. October 2018 The future of German-British academic relations was the focus of a discussion between HRK President Peter-André Alt and the German Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Peter Wittig, in London this week. The United Kingdom is one of Germany’s most important partners in university cooperation. Both countries are also very successful in obtaining third-party funding in Brussels. Barely six months before Great Britain's exit from the European Union, however, the framework conditions for future British-European university cooperation remain unresolved.

UK and Germany: student exchange and joint research continue

6 December 2016 Press release by Universities UK (UUK) :
Last month, UUK President Dame Julia Goodfellow visited Berlin and UUK's partner organisation, the German Rectors' Conference Hochschulrektorenkonferenz (HRK), for the first time since the UK's vote to leave the EU in June 2016. Since the referendum, both organisations have observed increasing uncertainty regarding the future conditions for the traditionally close British-German relations in university research and study. Read more

European Rectors' Conferences want to safeguard collaboration with the UK

22 July 2016 The Presidents of Rectors’ Conferences in 24 European countries have proclaimed their support for continued collaboration with British universities, even after a Brexit. In the joint statement, also signed by HRK President Horst Hippler, the presidents point to the great significance of the collaboration for the development of universities throughout Europe. They say that pooling infrastructure, data and expertise is of fundamental importance in knowledge-based societies. Read more

Brexit: concrete consequences for universities

28 July 2016 Following the referendum on 23 June 2016, in which the UK electorate voted by a narrow majority to leave the European Union, the question arises as to the concrete consequences of this decision. Universities UK is maintaining a continually updated website on this issue: Brexit FAQs for universities and students

In a first official reaction on 28 June 2016, Jo Johnson, the UK’s Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, emphasised that the UK would fulfil its obligations in full until such time as the country left the EU. Johnson outlined the direct impacts on EU citizens and student funding in England, the status of students and university staff from other EU countries, Erasmus+ and the research funding programme Horizon 2020 as follows: Read more

HRK President on Brexit: profound impact extends to universities

24 June 2016 “Universities will also be profoundly affected by Brexit,” said HRK President Horst Hippler, responding to the UK's vote to withdraw from the European Union. “The consequences will hit British universities hard, and with them the entire European Higher Education and Research Area. We need to brace ourselves for a difficult transition period given the extensive negotiations that lie ahead on the conditions for including the United Kingdom in the European funding and exchange programmes. For German universities and the German Rectors' Conference, Brexit marks a painful turning point.” Read more

UK and German rectors' conferences before the Brexit referendum: devastating consequences for study and research

2 June 2016 University rectors from Germany and the UK have emphasised the key importance of the EU in funding top-level research and student mobility in Europe. At a meeting of the executive boards of the rectors' conferences of both countries in Berlin, HRK President Horst Hippler described a potential exit of the UK from the EU as “devastating to the collaboration of academics and researchers in Germany and the whole of Europe”. Germany and the UK are each the second most important partner of the respective other country (after the USA). They are the most successful countries in obtaining funding from the EU’s 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. Read more