In December 2017, the University of Oxford announced the formation of a new research partnership with four institutions in Berlin: the Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin and the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. In its initial stages, the partnership will build on existing research links and also create an environment for taking forward new projects across the five institutions, including all areas of academic research and also within the museums and libraries of both Berlin and Oxford. Its ambition is to allow Oxford academics and researchers to spend time in Berlin, collaborating with colleagues in the Charité teaching hospital and the three Berlin universities, and also enable academics and researchers from Berlin to spend time in departments and colleges in Oxford.
In time, the intention is that the University will establish a physical centre in Berlin, the Oxford–Berlin Research Centre. The partnership has the strong support of the Mayor of Berlin, who has indicated that he will seek to provide a building for the new centre. In the short term, Oxford will establish an office and legal presence in Berlin, which should enable Oxford and Berlin academics jointly to continue to put forward research applications to EU funding programmes as well as to German and British research funders and foundations.
A larger Oxford–Berlin research centre will provide accommodation and work space for academics and graduate students to spend time in Berlin, working in laboratories and libraries. It will also support students travelling between Oxford and Berlin on undergraduate exchange programmes, medical elective courses and research degrees. The intention is to create also a smaller scale Berliner Haus in Oxford, as a focal point for the Berlin institutions and to enable academics, researchers and students from Berlin to spend time in Oxford’s departments and colleges.
As now, each of the partners will be free to pursue other institutional relationships. However, for Oxford, the advantages of the partnership include the establishment of a formal collaboration between Oxford and some of the leading research institutions in Germany; the creation of a research centre in Berlin as a focal point through which faculty members, researchers and students from all of the institutions can collaborate; and the provision of a physical and legal base in continental Europe for Oxford.
The Oxford–Berlin Partnership has been taken forward in Oxford by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor with responsibility for Brexit strategy, Professor Alastair Buchan, supported by the Director of the International Strategy Office, Nina Tomlin, and Alasdair MacDonald, Senior Assistant Registrar in the Brexit Office. Several Oxford academics are involved in the partnership’s Academic Steering Committee, part of whose remit is to help identify and support areas of collaborative research involving Oxford and at least one of the Berlin partners. A number of workshops have taken place already across all four divisional remits as well as involving the libraries and museums in Berlin and Oxford