“The Turkish partners expect us not to break the bridges” .

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Mr. Mukherjee, as the new DAAD President, you are currently on an introductory tour in Germany. Are you a committed Scientist for Future traveling by train?
on a tightly packed day as today, it is difficult with the train arrival on the same day. They generally point to a sore point: science constantly explains what needs to be done in the face of climate change, but we don't always act accordingly. It is now our core business as an exchange organization to promote mobility. Nevertheless, we will have to justify our own travel activities and those that we promote in a completely different way than before.

You have took office in turbulent times. The Brexit is imminent, and the transitional rules for Erasmus students in Great Britain will expire within a year. There is little time to negotiate a successor agreement. Do you see any chance that the Erasmus exchange will be maintained anyway?
For Germany, Great Britain an essential partner country in all areas of science. The Brexit consequences not only have to spoon out the British, but also we. Politicians must prioritize a follow-up scheme for Erasmus and for Britain's participation in EU research funding programs. In this process, for which there might be rules that are easy to knit, we will advise politics.

Do you mean bilateral Agreements like those between the universities of Berlin and Oxford or Munich and Cambridge, in which you agree on joint research projects and exchange students?
What is needed is a solution for the overall relationship between Great Britain and everyone 27 EU members. There must be no bilateral special regulations in the sense of cherry picking that could develop explosive force for the relationship between Great Britain and the EU.

Ein Porträt des Wissenschaftsmanagers Joybrato Mukherjee.

Joybrato Mukherjee has been President of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) since the beginning of January. His office as President … Photo: Jonas Ratermann

The dramatic global situation also means that students and researchers from more and more crisis regions hope for academic asylum in Germany. What does the DAAD do for these people?
The new programs that we are in the Situation of autumn 2015 hung up on very short notice were successful at many university locations. With Integra and Welcome, refugee students were able to continue their studies quickly despite the language difficulties and the cultural barriers. For young researchers, for example, there was Leadership for Syria. The idea behind it: When this conflict is over, we need a new generation of well-educated leaders in Syria.

What happened to the master's students who came to Germany with this program and who in most cases could certainly not return?
We support every year 150 000 people and have because of the size of the numbers it is quite a problem to trace what has become of each of our alumni. Even if the situation in Syria does not yet allow a return, Leadership for Syria is a program that we are discussing with donors for a whole range of target countries. This year we are also preparing conceptually what the DAAD wants to propose to the ministries for the next legislative period.

Do you see a role for the DAAD in giving refugee scientists a perspective in the medium term at universities?
First of all: We are not the crisis management team in German science. We always have to see how we complement our other organizations such as the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation with their two to three year Philipp Schwartz scholarship. In the end, however, it is the universities that the refugees have to involve in the medium or long term.

The internationalization of the universities In Germany it is an official policy goal in the federal and state governments, and the quota of students and lecturers from abroad is increasing. At the same time, complaints about hurdles in the course of study and the lack of a welcome culture in universities and authorities can be heard. What comes from it at the DAAD?
In fact there are massive discrepancies between the study success of Domestic and international students: In the Bachelor, the dropout rate for domestic students is 32 percent, in Master at 19 percent, with the international it is 45 or 29 percent. We want to close this gap, there should be more advice and funding offers. In addition, the study does not take place in a bubble, but in an integrated or not integrated everyday life of the students. That is why the welcome culture has to improve in some places, even if our universities are already very attractive and in demand.

The topic of racism is controversial in this country, it starts with simple questions. It is not obvious to every white German that the question “where are you from?” Is a sensitive question. What are your experiences, have you experienced open or implicit racism at universities?
We have to be careful not to overstretch the concept of racism. The question “where do you come from?” Is also asked more often with my skin color. When I answer “from Düren near Aachen”, there are of course interlocutors who ask: “And where do you actually come from?” But I also see that society has become much more open since the eighties. It is less the said demand. I have never really perceived what you call implicit racism as racism. Rather, it is the manifestation of a stereotypical expectation that real Germans have to conform to a certain – also external – prototype.

The question is what does it do to you.
I see this as an educational task for me. There are many who have to be made to understand by interacting with people like me that being German and white skin don't necessarily belong together. In addition, there are unfortunately also real racist tendencies in our society that we have to fight.

How do you see foreign companies founded with German support? , how current is the German International University of Applied Sciences in Egypt? The DAAD supports their development with 17 million euros from the budget of the BMBF. Are there requirements for university autonomy and democracy on campus?
There is no “One size fits all ”requirements that we can apply to all transnational education projects in all countries. This requirement does not do justice to the complexity of the exchange relationships. Among other things, it is always important for us to enable student participation. If countries don't want that, they try to get closer in a negotiation process. This is a Kärnnerarbeit.

Scientists in Turkey continue to be persecuted . Scientists were also summoned and questioned at the Turkish-German University. Is there a clear announcement that this is not possible at institutions funded by Germany?
The TDU is in equal parts a Turkish as a German project. A “clear announcement” from us Germans to the Turks does not do justice to the nature of this project. That does not mean that we take part in everything. There are a number of project ideas worldwide that we do not pursue because the framework conditions are not right.

Can you give an example? ?
Of course, at the moment we would not come up with the idea of a North Korean-German university to found. But when we have decided on a project and it is in demand, you have to think carefully about putting everything at your disposal because certain political developments – rightly so – bump into you. The Turkish partners, for example, expect us not to tear down the bridges.

Is it acceptable that German universities with money from China operate Confucius Institutes? China sees the institutes as a propaganda tool.
There are various assessments. Some say that these are purely language and cultural institutes, at the other end of the scale there are opinions that these are Chinese cultural-imperialist means. Universities have to decide for themselves whether the respective concept is viable for them. The institutes were founded with different concepts and with different possibilities of intervention in China. You have to differentiate.

You see the DAAD as a future think tank for questions of freedom of science, the role of universities in climate change. Who should think about what?
We have to think about where the international academic Cooperation in the 20 years goes. Take, for example, the climate policy discussion: How can you increase mobility without buying negative effects on climate policy? What role do instruments of the digital world play here? We also want to use the expertise of our alumnae and alumni and our member universities here.

You also want to discuss whether the Erasmus study in the future can be completed virtually. Wouldn't that be the point of the student exchange there?
Would you have 30 Years thought that people meet in a hall, put on glasses, wear gloves and in a perfect one seemingly virtual world? It happens today. We cannot answer the question of what 2050 will be technically possible with today's world knowledge. Sure, it all sounds like science fiction. But much of the science fiction of the past is actually a reality today.