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They are important institutions for research on Germany and Europe and drivers of innovation in academic training: the 15 Centers for German and European Studies in eleven countries focus on contemporary issues that transcend the boundaries of individual disciplines. The aim is to educate a young generation of experts on Germany and Europe that will work to achieve international understanding and cooperation. They link the academic, political and public spheres in the country where they are based through their focus on Germany and Europe. Within the framework of its research and academic relations policy the Federal Foreign Office promotes the Centers through the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).
The network of the Centers for German and European Studies links eleven countries and fifteen renowned university cities from Paris to Tokyo. The Centers are usually financed by the university they are based at, though they also receive funding from Germany’s cultural relations and education policy budget during the ten-year start-up phase. Each Center has its own unique features, exceptional researchers and specialist fields. But as different as the Centres may be, they share a number of common denominators beyond the German language. Most importantly, the goal of the Centers is to provide a young generation of scholars with excellent knowledge of Germany and Europe in the hope of guaranteeing intensive cooperation between Germany and its partners in the future. That is why the Centers are dedicated to research and teaching with markedly innovative PhD and Masters programmes. They focus on contemporary issues from a broad perspective that includes political science, sociology, history, economics, law, German studies and cultural sciences. Taking an approach that goes beyond the boundaries of individual disciplines makes working at the Centers particularly interesting and exciting – and therefore attractive.
It is precisely this interdisciplinary approach that appeals to many of the young scholars. “Interest continues to grow, even among students who have never had anything to do with Germany before,” says Professor Bianca Kühnel, director of the Center for German Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “Europe is important for Israel and that is why our Center is important: research is a solid foundation for intensive relations.” Professor Krzysztof Ruchniewicz, a historian and director of the Willy Brandt Center (WBZ) in Wrocław, wants the Center to “serve as an intermediary between Germany and Poland, and in doing so, it is important that we are not chained to our desks.” That is why the WBZ also focuses on knowledge transfer and political consulting in addition to research and teaching.
CIERA – Centre interdisciplinaire d’études et de recherches sur l’Allemagne – in Paris plays a special role: it operates as an association of ten French universities and research institutes. With its innovative, interdisciplinary PhD programme, CIERA has actually become a driver of academic policy in France. CIERA director, Professor Michael Werner, is fascinated by the profiles of the experts on Germany educated at CIERA. “For these young people, nationality doesn’t play much of a role anymore,” he states. “They are fluent in two or three languages, have more of a European identity and can play an important role in all knowledge transfer processes.” In other words, this is precisely the young generation of multipliers the founders of the Centers had in mind.
Text: Janet Schayan/Societäts-Verlag
Facts and Figures
DAAD currently funds 15 Centers for German and European Studies. Since 1991 a total of 18 Centers and several interdisciplinary projects on German and European studies have been supported. // The first Centers for German and European Studies were founded in the United States in 1991. // The two newest Centers were founded in Israel in 2007. // German funding for the Centers consists of up to 250,000 euro per year during the ten year start up phase.