In recent years Freie Universität has succeeded in becoming even more attractive for young international researchers and top-level researchers. Given the large number and variety of international connections that have developed, it has been particularly important to pursue internationalization in a systematic fashion and in accordance with the university’s profile and research emphases. This transformation was carried out under the guidance of the Center for International Cooperation (CIC), which has supported the development and expansion of sustainable partnerships with academic institutions around the world and has made a major contribution to the greater international appeal of Freie Universität.
As early as 2005, Freie Universität, jointly with Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, set up the first international liaison office in New York. In the following years, the university set up six more offices in those regions of the world that are of paramount importance for researchers at Freie Universität, and not only because of the local area studies: Beijing (2007), New Delhi (2007), São Paulo (2009), Brussels (2009), Cairo (2010), and Moscow (2010).
The key activities of the liaison offices differ from region to region, but some tasks are common to all of them: Substantive and organizational support for researchers at Freie Universität in new and existing international research collaborations; Recruitment of excellent junior researchers, especially doctoral students at universities, career fairs, and conferences; Collection of information on higher education policy and research in the respective locations and setting up contact points for researchers, doctoral students, and students from Berlin and from the countries concerned.
The liaison offices are also in contact with more than 1,000 alumni of Freie Universität, for whom more than 30 events were organized in these countries between 2008 and 2012.
The activities of the liaison office and the CIC have helped to make Freie Universität a more international place. There are now 125 nationalities on campus, doing research, studying, and teaching; 10 percent of professors, 24 percent of doctoral students and postdocs, and 21 percent of masters students now come from abroad. Not included in these figures are the many German researchers who have been appointed to professorships at Freie Universität after spending extended periods abroad. In addition, the international mobility of researchers at Freie Universität has increased. In the first funding phase, a total of 309 research sojourns abroad were supported by funding from the CIC.
Since 2009, more than 600 international initiatives have been supported with nearly two million euros seed funding from the Center for International Cooperation. Overall, with the participation of the CIC, international projects in the first funding phase attracted a volume of external funding in the amount of more than ten million euros. These include, for example, the International Research Training Groups “Between Spaces: Movements, Actors and Representations of Globalization” (Latin American Studies) and "Functional Molecular Infection Epidemiology" (Veterinary Medicine), which began their activities in 2010.
The successful internationalization of Freie Universität is also reflected in rankings. No other German university is as popular with international students – in 2011, more than 1,100 students came to Berlin under the aegis of the Erasmus exchange program. With 600 fellowship holders from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) annually, Freie Universität is also leading the field. Freie Universität is also right at the forefront with the number of researchers who hold fellowships or have won prizes from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation – in 2011, there were a total of 114 pursing their work at the university.
Freie Universität has also enjoyed great success in the development of privileged partnerships. This includes working closely with the China Scholarship Council (CSC), which since 2010 has resulted in a total of 150 Chinese doctoral candidates pursuing their studies at Freie Universität. Freie Universität is thus the most attractive German university for this group of students, and is among the top ten universities preferred by holders of Chinese government scholarships. The goal of building up intensive cooperations at all levels of university life and management with certain internationally renowned universities was rapidly embarked on by Freie Universität in the first phase of the program. Freie Universität has now developed primary partnerships with the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Peking University, the State University of St. Petersburg, and with a network of Korean universities.
In the first phase of funding, the international visibility of Freie Universität was enhanced through numerous conference presentations, by delegations traveling to partner countries, as well as the organization of major events by the CIC. These included the opening of the German-Chinese Year of Science and Education, 2009/2010, and the conclusion of the German-Russian Year of Education, Science and Innovation, 2011/2012, both of which took place at Freie Universität.