With its numerous diverse networks, Freie Universität is a modern, future-oriented university setting directions on the national and international levels. The university’s institutional strategy, rewarded by the German Excellence Initiative in 2007 and 2012, builds on the strength of these networks, a strength which is enhanced through the interaction of first-class partners. Intensive networking in research and teaching – on the regional, national, and international levels – has been fundamental to Freie Universität Berlin from the start.
In the context of the Excellence Initiative, Freie Universität is able to expand these networks further and to offer researchers comprehensive support: various proven and innovative ways and means of supporting young researchers, and promoting internationalization and research help to make the University even more effective as a location for research and as a network partner. Thus, in the second program phase Freie Universität is pursuing the work it successfully began during the first phase.
Since its founding in 1948, the academic ethos of the Freie Universität has been determined by these three values, united in the seal of the University: truth, justice and freedom. Within the framework of the network concept, these core values are demonstrating their effectiveness as guiding principles for the academic challenges of the 21st century. They are an expression of a liberal conception of the university, which views the intellectual claim to truth, social commitment and intellectual autonomy as the basis of modern, top-level research.
Cooperation with regional and international research institutions is also governed by these key concepts. Gender equality at all levels also plays an important role in the University’s conception of itself. The successful practice of equal opportunity, diversity management and internationally-oriented gender studies, which are connected in the GenderNet Freie Universität (Margherita-von-Brentano-Zentrum), constitute an additional feature of university excellence.
In keeping with its core values, the Freie Universität relies on flexible, open-ended networks in which researchers conduct their research collegially and responsibly. Such partnerships are not created on the drawing board, but grow with the research interests and activities of researchers. They range from close cooperations with non-university partners in the region of Berlin-Brandenburg to research collaborations with partners worldwide.
As these activities move forward, junior researchers derive particular benefits from these connections. A career path model gives early-career researchers optimum support through the various phases of their educations and working lives.
International support was instrumental in the founding of Freie Universität Berlin, in 1948, and international impetus has helped to shape the research and teaching activities at the university ever since. Worldwide and regional networks alike give scholars, scientists, and researchers opportunities to engage in intellectual dialogue and advance their research, with a focus on interdisciplinary work and the quest for solutions to global challenges. At first a necessity due to West Berlin’s geographic isolation, internationalization soon became a successful and lasting strategy at Freie Universität.
As part of its institutional strategy, “The International Network University,” Freie Universität has made further strides in terms of internationalization. The university’s internationalization strategy has several key goals:
Berlin is a leading location for research. With four universities, four art academies, seven universities of applied sciences, 23 private colleges, and more than 70 independent research institutions, it has the largest concentration of research in Germany. Research-oriented institutions such as the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, whose museums are known all over the world, sociopolitical organizations, and innovative companies all help create a unique environment for fundamental research and applied sciences.
The research institutions in the local area include eight Max Planck Institutes, seven Helmholtz Centers, more than 20 Leibniz Institutes, numerous Fraunhofer Institutes and research institutions operated by the German federal government, alongside well-known institutions like the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (BBAW) and the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP).
Freie Universität Berlin is thus part of one of the most productive research environments in Europe. As part of the excellence strategy, the university is forging ahead with further networking in the region. Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the joint medical school Charité – Universitätsmedizin, Technische Universität Berlin, and Freie Universität joined forces to submit a joint application in the nationwide competition with the aim of further intensifying their work together.
Freie Universität is located on the Berlin-Dahlem Research Campus in the southwestern part of the city. The Berlin-Dahlem Research Campus is characterized by a high density of universities and independent research institutions such as institutes of the Max Planck Society and the Helmholtz Association.
Almost 9,000 people are employed there. It is the fourth largest research hub in Germany and is unique in many ways. Where once Albert Einstein and Otto Hahn conducted their research, today scientists and scholars at different institutions and disciplines work together, addressing issues of importance for the future. The multitude of opportunities for research contacts across institutions, and the numerous parks and green areas provide an ideal environment for concentrated academic work.
Within the Excellence Initiative, Freie Universität has further expanded its regional research network. Along with its work within clusters of excellence and graduate schools, it has also teamed up with ten non-university partners – five Max Planck Institutes (MPI WG, MPI BF, FHI, MPI MG, MPI IB), two Helmholtz Centers (HZB, HZG), the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB), the Zuse Institute Berlin, and the Robert Koch Institute – as part of the career path model to support promising scholars, scientists, and researchers at the start of their academic careers through various measures, including joint junior research groups and junior professorships and Junges Wissenschaftsforum Dahlem, a platform for the development and exchange of ideas.
With the strength of its research activities, Freie Universität Berlin makes a significant contribution to the appeal of the Berlin-Brandenburg area and the local research landscape. At the same time, the university’s cooperation with strong regional partners unlocks opportunities for innovative research at Freie Universität by bringing together complementary areas of strength in research, through jointly operated labs and shared use of archives and infrastructure, and by creating an attractive research environment for outstanding young researchers.