With close involvement of Freie Universität Berlin, a new German Science Centre (DWZ) was opened on Tuesday, 13 November 2012 in Cairo by the German Federal Foreign Minister Dr. Guido Westerwelle. The establishment of the new DWZ was initiated by the German Federal Foreign Office and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). The opening ceremony was attended by the president of Freie Universität Berlin, Prof. Dr. Peter-André Alt; the president of DAAD, Prof. Dr. Margret Wintermantel; and representatives from other German institutions. About 1000 Egyptians attended an open house day and gathered information about the DWZ partner institutions. Freie Universität has a Liaison Office in Cairo that was set up three years ago.
The new DWZ was set up so that German educational and academic institutions and universities can join forces to intensify their contacts with Egyptian researchers and the business community. It focuses on themes of natural, environmental, and social sciences. Other partners include Technische Universität Berlin, TU Munich, Philipps-Universität Marburg, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Orient Institute Beirut, the Fraunhofer Society, and the German Central Agency for Schools Abroad.
Prof. Dr. Peter-André Alt stressed that the Liaison Office of Freie Universität in Cairo has become a widely used reference point for both Egyptian and German students and researchers. "From the start Freie Universität was very involved in setting up the DWZ in Cairo." There are many important academic partners in the Middle East, and the region itself with its various cultural facets is of paramount importance for Freie Universität as a field of research. "We are convinced that the joint presence of leading German research institutions will accelerate the positive development in academic relations that we have experience in recent years," Alt added.
The head of the Liaison Office of Freie Universität in Cairo, Dr. Florian Kohstall, emphasized that the German Science Centre was a grassroots initiative. Freie Universität as one of the first organizations represented by the DAAD in Cairo had a major role in the initiative. "The nine partner institutions cooperating in the new DWZ make it possible for us to join forces in Egypt." Kohstall anticipates that the DWZ will become an important location for German-Egyptian networking that will lead to innovations in teaching and research.
Freie Universität now has ten joint educational and research projects with Egyptian universities, covering a wide range of disciplines and emphases. The topics range from technology transfer to cooperation on the subject of equality at Egyptian universities. In addition, many professors at Freie Universität have good connections with their former Egyptian students and current colleagues, especially in Middle Eastern studies, the Earth sciences, and veterinary medicine. Annually, about 20 professors from Freie Universität use the Liaison Office as a focal point and platform when they are in Egypt.
Actual exchange opportunities for students and graduate students increased after Freie Universität set up the office in Egypt. The university now partners with numerous institutions in Egypt, and there are direct exchange agreements with the American University in Cairo and the University of Cairo. Freie Universität is also involved in several Erasmus Mundus consortia. Per year about 20 students from Freie Universität go to Egypt for study or research purposes, and about the same number from Egypt come to Freie Universität. During the current fall/winter semester there are 31 graduate students from Egypt who are in doctoral programs at Freie Universität, more than half of them in the Department of Veterinary Medicine and the Department of Biology, Chemistry, and Pharmacy.
Since April 2011 the Liaison Office of Freie Universität, the DAAD in Cairo, and the Cairo Office of the Orient Institute Beirut have been organizing the successful series "Cairo Talks on Transformation and Change" (CTTC). So far, eight events were held that dealt with current issues and challenges in the political upheaval. The topics addressed so far were the role of the military, the organization of the first free parliamentary elections, the constitutional referendum, and the role of women during and after the revolution. The most recent event was held this week and was dedicated to the outcome of the U.S. presidential election and its impact on the relationship between the United States, Egypt, and Europe.