Germany | University of Oxford
Berlin
Brandeburg gate, Pariser Platz, Berlin.
(Image credit: Shutterstock).

Germany

Oxford’s relationship with Germany is one of its strongest and most treasured. These links are broad, encompassing educating international students, research collaboration and academic exchange.

Oxford is home to a vibrant community of German students, researchers and academics. Germany provides one of the University’s strongest sources of talent; it is the third largest source of international students and the largest source of international academics. Oxford’s German department is the top rated in the UK, both in terms of teaching and research. In addition, Oxford-German academic partnerships are very fruitful – Oxford’s researchers collaborate with German colleagues more than with any other nationality besides the US.

The University holds some exceptional resources and collections on Germany. For example, the Ashmolean Museum holds a collection of German graphic art which began in 1834 when the antiquary Francis Douce bequeathed his collection to the University. It includes important prints and drawings by Dürer, Holbein, Altdorfer, Grünewald, Burgkmair and other artists of the German Renaissance.

Oxford excels in its provisions for the study of Germany and the German language. It is a world leader in German-focused research and has one of the oldest, largest and most active departments of German in the country based in the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages.  

German Department

The department has an excellent record in teaching and research, an intake of approximately 120 undergraduates each year, and a strong and flourishing graduate presence. With 17 full-time members of staff and a wide range of expertise between them, the department is able to offer an unusually challenging and diverse series of courses to its students. For example, its teaching capacity for Medieval German language and literature is greater than any other UK university.

Oxford has the UK’s largest body of graduate students in German and is one of the leading centres for research in German in the country and indeed the world. The 2008 Research Assessment Exercise underlined the high standing of the German Sub-faculty, which was ranked first among the 27 departments of German in the UK. It was judged to be world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour and was praised for its thriving research culture.

Academics in the department specialise in a wide range of fields, ranging from literature, linguistics, and theory to history, film and philosophy, and cover all historical periods.

The European Studies Centre

Established in 1976, the European Studies Centre at St Antony's College is dedicaed to the interdisciplinary study of Europe. It has particular strengths in politics, history and international relations, but also brings together economists, sociologists, social anthropologists and students of culture. Besides its permanent fellows, the Centre welcomes Visiting Fellows from several European countries, as well as graduate students from around the world working on European affairs. Academics at the Centre also participate in several collaborative international research projects and the Centre holds seminars and workshops on a wide range of topics.

European Humanities Research Centre

The Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages is also home to the European Humanities Research Centre (EHRC). The EHRC has had a full and varied programme, including academic publishing, conferences, visits by leading international scholars, symposia, seminars and lectures. Past Germany-centred activities within EHRC include the 'Flaschenpost' project, organised by Dr Karen Leeder, which is an umbrella for scholars, critics, and poets from a number of different countries to come together and discuss German poetry of the twentieth century and beyond.

Oxford’s Institute of European and Comparative Law

The study of Germany also takes place in the Social Sciences division. Established in 1995, Oxford’s Institute of European and Comparative Law (IECL) aims to enhance the European dimension of the Law Faculty’s teaching and research. The institute is headed by German professor Stephen Vogenauer and it works both to ensure that the links established with other major European institutions are strengthened and to expose Oxford students to other legal jurisdictions in Europe.

Throughout the rest of the University’s divisions researchers and students are exploring Germany’s history, legal system, politics, and much more.

Study Abroad in Germany

Oxford students studying German related course have many opportunities to spend time studying in Germany itself. Undergraduates in modern languages, biochemistry and Law with Law Studies in Europe all have opportunities for study abroad in Germany. In addition, a number of departments have exchange programmes between Oxford and German students organised under the Erasmus and DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) programmes.

International Internships

In addition, for those students who do not have the opportunity to gain experience in Germany on their course, the Oxford University Internship Programme arranges internships during the summer vacation, a number of which are with German employers.

A number of Colleges also provide study and work experience opportunities to their students in Germany, for instance St Anne’s offers internships at Landesbank Berlin.

See also

Collaborations between Oxford academics and their German peers are both extensive and deep. Germany is home to the 2nd largest concentration of Oxford co-authors outside the UK, after the US. Oxford academics collaborate most frequently with the Universität Karlsruhe, Universität Bonn, the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, Universität  Hamburg, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. The major areas of collaboration are in physics, biochemistry and molecular biology, and physical chemistry.

Collaborations in Theology

In the humanities, the Faculty of Theology collaborates regularly with German universities, particularly the University of Bonn with which it holds regular seminars.

The relationship between the Theology Faculty in Oxford and the Protestant Faculty of Theology in Bonn goes back as far as 1977.  Every other year the universities host a joint seminar for graduate students, alternately in Bonn and Oxford. Members of the two faculties have held visiting positions at each others institutions.

Professor Gerhard Sauter, Emeritus Professor in Bonn and the original architect of the co-operation between Oxford and Bonn, is an Honorary Member of the Oxford Theology Faculty, and Dr John Barton of Oxford has an Honorary Doctorate in Theology from Bonn. The partners are also undertaking a research project, currently led by Professor Paul Fiddes at Regent's Park, in which five members of each Faculty work intensively on a theological topic, resulting in their papers being published collectively: the fifth such volume was published in late 2012.

English Faculty

Dr Stefano Evangelista is participating in 'Writing 1900', a collaborative project led by Humboldt. An international and cross-disciplinary network of scholars who are interested in studying the literary culture of this period in ways that overcome traditional national, linguistic, and generic borders. The aim of the group is to share expertise and, through dialogue, to keep searching for innovative and challenging approaches to literary and cultural history and critical practice.

Medical Sciences

Researchers in the Medical Sciences Division are engaged in cutting edge medical research with German colleagues, which is leading to a number of highly significant results.

Researchers at Oxford University and the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg are studying receptors in the brain called the hippocampal NMDA. They have recently released findings which show that this receptor, which was previously thought to be crucial to spatial learning, is in fact is not necessary for spatial learning. It is, however, essential for detecting or resolving conflict and in order for people to make the right decision when faced with complex orientation problems. This result is highly significant as it refutes one of the central tenets of neuroscience regarding the function of hippocampal NMDA in spatial learning.

In Oxford’s Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, researchers are collaborating with Neurologische Klinik, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, München, Germany to study a rare disorder, Chorea-Acanthocytosis (ChAc), which leads to progressive neurodegeneration.
European Perspectives on American History

Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics

Professor Aditi Lahiri is working with colleagues at Konstanz on a research collaboration called 'Mental Lexicon'. This is a collaboration on extracting electrophysiological evidence in the phonological fine structure of the mental lexicon, funded by DFG, the German Research Foundation.

Oxford German Network

The Oxford German Network was founded by the German department in 2012 with the support of partners Jesus College, Bodleian Libraries, Magdalen College School and BMW Group Plant Oxford. Its mission is to provide cultural leadership for all those constituencies in Oxford and beyond who have an interest in the German-speaking countries.

It builds on local strengths by facilitating events with local partner schools of all types and participating in the City of Oxford’s twinning arrangement with Bonn. The website is complemented by social media to generate interaction between individuals and organisations, providing information about events, internship opportunities, research projects and not least a German bakery van. The Network emerged from cooperation with the embassies and cultural institutions of Germany, Austria and Switzerland in the “Think German” campaign, and is being recommended to other universities as a follow-on model: “Think German locally”.

The annual Oxford German Olympiad has been received enthusiastically by schools across the UK, and it is to be extended as a multi-disciplinary competition to research level with the support of alumni and partner companies. As a beacon for the study of languages, the Oxford German Network conducts research into the status and uptake of German to promote language provision at national level. By connecting academic institutions, cultural organisations, businesses and policy-makers locally, nationally and internationally, it encourages mutually beneficial cross-cultural cooperation.

Individual Collaborations

As well as Oxford’s extensive partnerships with institutions in the region, individual academics at Oxford are collaborating with their German peers across a number of different fields. These collaborations span as broad a subject range as forestry, linguistics, zoology, migration, pharmacology, molecular biology, history, genetics, brain imaging and law.

One example is a finding from a collaborative project between archaeologists at Oxford and Tübingen Universities which demonstrated that the first modern humans in Europe were playing musical instruments and showing artistic creativity as early as 40,000 years ago.

A team of archaeologists and archaeological scientists has carbon dated bones found in the same archaeological layers as a variety of musical instruments and found them to come from the same time period. The instruments take the form of flutes made from bird bones and mammoth ivory. They were excavated at the Geißenklösterle Cave in the Swabian Jura of southern Germany, a region which is widely believed to have been occupied by some of the first modern humans to arrive in Europe. The results of these tests are 2,000- 3,000 years older than previously thought and predate similar sites in other parts of Europe.

Partnerships Outside of Academia

Oxford also has strong relationships with the German private and third sectors. A number of German companies and foundations have supported lectureships, fellowships and chairs at the university. These include the Council of the Deutsche Bank Foundation, the Robert Bosch Foundation, the Volkswagen Foundation, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and the Stifterverband Association for the Promotion of Science and Humanities in Germany, among others.

German Academic Exchange Service

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) is the German national agency for the support of international academic cooperation. It offers academic exchange opportunities to students, faculty and researchers and has a strong relationship with Oxford. With the support of the German government, DAAD supports four lecturers at Oxford in Politics, History, Law and German Language and Literature and three German Language College Lecturers in the Department of Modern Languages.

See also

Students

Germany is the 4th largest source of students at Oxford, and the 3rd largest source of international students. There are over 800 German students studying at Oxford, the majority of whom – 80% – are postgraduates and a fifth of whom – 20% – are full-time undergraduates. This makes Germany the 4th largest source of undergraduate students after the UK, China and Singapore.

German students have access to a wide range of scholarships, particularly for graduate study. Germany is the only European country whose students are eligible to apply for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarships for graduate study. In addition to being able to apply for the full range of scholarships open to students from all EU countries including the Clarendon Scholarships, German students at Oxford are also funded by the Jenkins Memorial Fund, the Scatcherd European scholarships, Marie Curie Research Training Grants, Die Studienstiftung Deutschen Volkes, Eheleute Carl-Russ-Stiftung, Haniel Stiftung, Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD),  Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Hanns Seidel Foundation, Friedrich Naumann Foundation, Heinrich Boell Foundation, and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.

Student Society

The German-speaking student community at Oxford is very vibrant and active. The Oxford German Society is one of the University’s oldest student societies. Originally founded as the “Hanover Club” in the early 20th century, the society recently celebrated its centenary. The society organises social and cultural activities, hosts speaker events - for instance Professor Rupert Stadler, CEO of Audi AG in May 2015 -  and co-organises conferences.

Academics

With over 330 German citizens on faculty, Germany is the 2nd largest source of academics at Oxford.

Oxford has been home to an impressive number of Nobel Prize winners who were members of the faculty either shortly before or at the time of their award, two of whom were from Germany. Sir Ernst Boris Chain (1906 –1979) was a German-born biochemist and co-recipient of the 1945 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine alongside Howard Florey for their work on penicillin. In the 1930s he had been a lecturer in chemical pathology at Oxford, working on a broad range of research topics including snake venoms, tumour metabolism, lysozymes, and biochemistry techniques. His work on penicillin built on and greatly expanded the work of Alexander Fleming, discovering its therapeutic action, its chemical composition and theorising its structure.

Klaus von Klitzing, a German physicist, was awarded the 1985 Nobel Prize in Physics. He worked from 1979 to 1980 conducting research in Oxford’s Clarendon Laboratory where he had access to the necessary equipment to produce the very strong magnetic fields that he needed to carry out the work that would eventually lead to the discovery of the Quantized Hall Effect, the work for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize.

Professor Reinhard Strohm

Professor Reinhard Strohm FBA is Professor of Music in the Faculty of Music, Oxford; Visiting Professor in Musicology at Vienna University; and Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College. His research interests focus on late-medieval music, Italian opera, eighteenth-century studies and postmodern debates concerning musicology.

Strohm is co-founder and chairman of Bach Network UK, an international research association dedicated to the music of J. S. Bach. He works as advisor with performing groups, opera houses and scholarly academies. He is a member or corresponding member of various academies, and collaborates with international journals and performing institutions. He was elected to the fellowship of the British Academy in 1993 and in 2009 he was elected Honorary Member of the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences (ZRC SASA) in a ceremony at Ljubljana, Slovenia. At present he is teaching Musicology at the Institut für Musikwissenschaft of the University of Vienna. He has also recently been awarded a Fellowship of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin for the academic year 2010–11.

Born in Munich in 1942, Professor Strohm has studied Musicology, Violin, Medieval Latin and Romance literatures in Munich (University), Berlin (Technische Universität), Pisa (Scuola Normale Superiore) and Milan (Conservatorio G. Verdi). He was awarded his PhD in 1971 at Technische Universität Berlin (with Carl Dahlhaus) on “Italienische Opernarien des frühen Settecento (1720-1730)”. He was a Co-editor of the Richard-Wagner-Gesamtausgabe, 1970-82, Lecturer at King’s College, University of London (1975-83), Professor at Yale University (1983-90) and Reader and Professor at King’s College London (1990-96).

Dr Maike Glitsch

Dr Maike Glitsch is Associate Professor of Biomedical Science in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics. Her research interests centre on communication between cells in the mammalian brain and, more recently, the involvement of certain channels and receptors in neuronal development in health and disease. Currently, her group is particularly focussing on the role of intracellular calcium in development of the cerebellum, a region of the brain involved in motor coordination and learning.

Dr Glitsch studied for her degree in Biological Sciences and her Doctorate in Biology at the University of Göttingen and the Max Planck Institute for biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen. Having come to Oxford as a post-doctoral fellow on a Human Frontiers of Sciences Program Long Term Fellowship in 1998, she was then funded by the Wellcome Trust and Royal Society. She was later appointed as University Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences and Tutorial Fellow in Medicine at St. Hilda’s College Oxford.

Alumni

With over 3,500 alumni, Germany is home to the 5th largest concentration of Oxford alumni in the world.

Among Oxford’s notable alumni are:

  • Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Oscar-winning director and screenwriter
  • Hans-Paul Bürkner, Chairman of the Boston Consulting Group
  • Norbert Lammert, Bundestag president and Rhodes Scholar
  • Elisabeth Blochmann, eminent scholar of education and philosophy, and a pioneer in and researcher of women's education in Germany
  • Richard von Weizsäcker, president of the Federal Republic of Germany 1984–1994, first president of the reunified Germany
  • Adam von Trott zu Solz, a German diplomat who opposed the Nazis and was involved in the July 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler
  • Ernst Schumacher, internationally influential economic thinker.

See also