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Internationalization Strategy


The internationalization of degree programs, teaching and research has always been an integral part of the University of Cologne’s (UoC) identity.

It has long played an important role in the world of international research and, as one of the largest and oldest universities in Europe, has decades of experience in international exchange programs involving both students and scientists. Thanks to its excellent reputation, the UoC can draw on a well-established network boasting more than 200 research partnerships and collaborative projects all around the world. 

Extending this network and developing the necessary strategies and tools for using it most productively on all levels of academic life is the focus of the UoC’s internationalization efforts. The UoC sees internationalization as a central component of its strategic development and an undertaking that requires the collaboration and participation of all involved in the university, from the executive board, to the academic staff and students, as well as the administrative staff in all their various roles. 

This view is based on our conviction that cosmopolitanism and interculturality are prerequisites to success in nearly all areas of life nowadays and that institutions involved in education and science in particular must take on more social responsibility in the global context. While research is under increasing pressure from international competition and the best results are mainly achieved within the framework of international cooperation, it is important that degree programs and teaching are comprehensively internationalized: to prepare students for a globalizing world full of transnational challenges and to give them the chance of receiving an education that will make them competitive within the global job market.


Internationalization Objectives

The UoC is a research-based university with a global perspective. It actively seeks out collaboration with the best academics and competes to attract the best students from around the world. We want to be able to offer them the ideal conditions and the best support structures possible. Sustainable internationalization must therefore permeate all areas of the university. We want internationality to be a fixed feature throughout academic life: in the faculties, amongst the students and researchers and in administrative services.

It is against this backdrop that the UoC actively pursues the following internationalization objectives:

1. Internationalizing research

Successful research requires international partners: for transnational research themes, for the regular exchange of current results, for collaborative projects, for creating synergies and for procuring third-party funding for joint research projects. By this and other means, the UoC aims at consolidating its reputation as a leading research University in the world.

2. Internationalizing degree programs and teaching

a) Degree programs incorporating research or practical experience must also be international and impart intercultural competences, increase the perception of diversity, reflect current international research trends and profit from international academic cooperation. Traveling abroad is not the only way to gain international experience.

b) An international campus thrives on exchange: our middle-term aim is to give about half of all UoC students the opportunity to spend a semester abroad or take part in  double degree programs. At the same time, we wish to encourage even more international students to study in Cologne – on the undergraduate and graduate programs, as exchange students, on short-term programs and within the framework of summer schools and workshops.

3. Improving internationalization support structures

a) Strengthening and developing coordination and support entities and internationalizing administration.

b) In addition, the UoC is strengthening its international presence and thereby creating support structures abroad.


Institutional Structure

A clearly defined understanding of internationalization, shared by the university as a whole, is fundamental to the internationalization strategy and its dynamic and successful implementation. Our internationalization strategy is the result of intensive university-wide discussions in which all six faculties committed to general internationalization concepts, as well as each taking on strategies tailored to their specific case.

The necessary institutional structures as well as a system of incentives, funding programs and fiscal measures are all part of a catalogue of measures for the implementation of this strategy paper. These will be continually reviewed, developed and monitored by the German Rectors’ Conference (“HRK”) with the Audit "Internationalization of Universities".

The University of Cologne has a structure in place for the implementation of its internationalization strategy, anchored within the university’s management as well as the faculties and administration. This is coordinated by the Vice-Rectorate for International Affairs. The International Office is responsible for student services as well as academic staff, the Welcome Center and overseas international liaison offices. The rectorate will also appoint professors as ambassadors in order to strengthen its presence in certain regions.

The faculties will also define their own internationalization concepts, to be implemented in respective Centers for International Relations. The commission fot International Relations and Public Relations holds regular meetings regarding the coordination and communication of international matters across all faculties.




In order to realize its internationalization objectives, the UoC has compiled a catalogue of measures defining 16 concrete tasks. These are complementary and interlocking, so that some measures serve many objectives. Each faculty will specify how they plan to implement them in their own internationalization concept. 

1. Establishing “Global Network Partnerships”

Comprehensive collaboration in research, teaching and campus management will be established with a limited number of selected universities (ca. 10) with whom the UoC enjoys cross-faculty partnership agreements. The aim within the framework of these Global Network Partnerships should be to create a particularly close network—e.g. through intensive exchange between students, postgraduates, academics and administrative staff enabled by joint teaching events and courses as well as joint research projects.

2. Promoting “Strategic Research Partnerships” in key profile areas

Special partnerships with leading international research institutions are supported in the UoC’s four key profile areas of cutting-edge research. This cooperation is intended to sustain and further develop the top-ranking position of these key profile areas. 2 or 3 Strategic Research Partnerships will be established for each key profile area. In addition, the so-called “emergent profile areas” should also form similar research partnerships.

3. Developing planning and management capabilities; regulatory reporting

The UoC is developing a comprehensive regulatory reporting framework to ensure that the internationalization strategy is successful developed and implemented. To this end, it is establishing centralized and decentralized institutional structures as well as a system of incentives, funding programs and fiscal measures.

4. Establishing a support structure for improved access to EU research funding programs

In the future, EU funding programs, especially the new framework programs for research and innovation, the international DFG projects as well as international graduate schools, will be incorporated into the UoC’s strategic research plans. A support structure will be set up to enable better access to and execution of EU research projects.  

5. Internationalizing the UoC teaching staff

The UoC will increase the number of international professors and visiting academics. The International Faculty Program will make it possible for 10-12 outstanding international researchers to work in research and teaching at the UoC for a limited period, e.g. two months a year over several of years. Professors visiting the UoC within the framework of this international faculty program will be offered contracts that enable them to teach and conduct examinations.

6. Incorporating internationalization options in all curricula

Internationalization options will be incorporated in the curricula of all degree programs. This may include participation in foreign language events, international workshops and summer schools as well as trips abroad. Tools for the standardized description of the degree to which a course is internationalized will be provided within the framework of the accreditation process. 

7. Internationalizing teacher training

The internationalization of teacher training is of particular relevance given the large number of students involved in it at the UoC. The internationalization of teacher training will be developed into a profile feature of the UoC by the Center for Teacher Training (Zentrum für LehrerInnenbildung) together with the faculties and the International Office.

8. Developing existing internationalized degree programs

The UoC will increase the amount of strongly internationalized degree programs (e.g. double-degree programs) in order to be able to offer even more students international academic experience.

9. Developing courses and events in English and other foreign languages

Events and courses held in English and other foreign language are beneficial to both German and international students. The faculties will, where possible, increase and consolidate the number of courses held in English and other foreign languages, for example, through “English tracks”. This will be complemented by the international faculty program, lecturer exchange programs and joint courses with global network partners.

10. Developing international partnerships to increase study abroad

In addition to international degree programs, the traditional form of student exchange will also continue to be developed: by creating structures that enable exchange, through new exchange agreements, by expanding existing exchange agreements and short-term programs for mutual exchange.

11. Improving conditions for international students

The UoC attracts students from all over the world and strives to provide the best possible conditions for them to live and study in Cologne successfully. To this end, the UoC is working on expanding “Studienstart International”, a structured access program for undergraduate students from non-member states, established within the framework of § 49 paragraph 9 of the new HG NRW (Higher Education Act of North Rhine-Westphalia). At the same time, the faculties and the International Office will work on improving the existent support systems for international students. “German as a Foreign Language” courses will be further diversified to meet the requirements of the various target groups and, complementary to point 12, will also be offered in summer schools.

12. Developing a comprehensive summer school system

Short-term courses such as summer schools are very popular at an international level. In the course of the campus’ internationalization, the UoC will host regular summer schools, giving even more international students the opportunity to visit Cologne. UoC students will also have a greater opportunity to take part in summer schools at other international universities within the framework of exchange agreements.

13. International alumni

Working with international alumni is an important component in strengthening the UoC’s international presence as well as a valuable networking tool. The international project KölnAlumni WELTWEIT will be developed further, the number of regional clubs increased and collaboration with “KölnAlumni – Freunde und Förderer der Universität zu Köln e.V.” strengthened.

14. Developing the International Office and International Relations Centers; internationalizing university administration and its structures 

Internationalization requires the appropriate structures and personnel. The growth in responsibilities brings with it a demand for greater numbers of staff and the necessity of more efficient coordination and communication. The International Office and the Centers for International Relations will be developed with internationalization in mind and measures for stronger collaboration established. 

15. Developing professional international marketing

The further development of international public relations and marketing tools and strategies in regional focal points is a short-term objective of the UoC. This includes an international recruitment strategy, professionalizing participation in international educational fairs, developing the activities of existing foreign offices and possible opening new offices in the target regions of Africa and Latin America and, if necessary, appointing more “UoC Ambassadors”. 

16. “Interculturalism at home”

The transfer of knowledge concerning cultural diversity in society is a top priority for the UoC. It strives to impart intercultural competences and experience to all of its members and staff through specialized programs.  

To ensure that international and intercultural encounters become the rule rather than the exception for all at the UoC, the internationalization of administrative staff will be promoted through language courses, intercultural training, international staff exchange programs, and the incorporation of internationalization in as many processes and areas as possible, especially staff training and personnel development.