Germany may soon be home to the UK’s first satellite university campus on the European continent.
King’s College London (KCL) has worked closely with TU Dresden – a technical university in eastern Germany – for many years.
But the relationship could now become even closer as the London university has announced it is considering opening a new campus in the German city.
The announcement comes as UK universities fear falling staff and student numbers and a loss of funding as a result of Britain’s pending exit from the European Union.
A KCL spokesperson confirmed Monday that the project is in the early planning stages and said that the university values its existing links with TU Dresden, “which demonstrate the success of cross-national and institutional links.”
“The plan is at an extremely early stage,” Hans Muller-Steinhagen, Vice Chancellor of TU Dresden, told CNN, but “there is significant interest from the senior university management at both King’s and TU.”
Muller-Steinhagen spent seven years working at the University of Surrey in the UK and is bewildered by the UK’s decision to leave the EU.
And he expects to see proposals for satellite campuses “all over Europe” in the next months and years as a result.
“We are not prepared to let our strong cooperative links with UK universities suffer from these political decisions,” he said.
Prospect of a ‘cliff edge’
Muller-Steinhagen sees satellite campuses as one possible solution to the potential problems caused by Brexit for UK universities.
In March this year, prominent academics at the University of Oxford warned of a potential staff exodus if EU citizens lose their right to work in the UK after Brexit.
Despite a recent proposal by the UK government to secure the rights of the more than three million EU citizens currently living in the UK, no deal has yet been finalized. And the European Parliament warned Monday it could veto the government’s proposals.
And the number of European students applying to study at UK universities is falling too. In December, the University of Cambridge announced that the number of applications from EU students had dropped by nearly 15%.
“We are concerned about the prospect of a ‘cliff edge’ for universities in which regulatory and visa changes have a sudden and damaging impact,” the university wrote in a statement.
UK universities are also facing the prospect of a loss of funding after Brexit, and UK students may no longer be eligible for the popular Erasmus scheme, an EU student exchange program that allows them to study in another Erasmus country for three to 12 months.
’Cooperation not competition’
According to Muller-Steinhagen, a satellite campus would offer exciting new possibilities for both researchers and students, acting as a catalyst for collaborative research as well as giving students the opportunity to study at a UK university but on European soil.
“When you have highly qualified people on both sides, and they work together, the results are much more successful,” said Muller-Steinhagen. We want to see more “cooperation not competition.”
And these two universities have already been working together for many years. KCL benefits from Dresden’s position at the heart of “Silicon Saxony,” an association of over 300 commercial enterprises, research institutes and universities in eastern Germany, while TU Dresden is able to strengthen its links with the strong academic and research communities in London.
In 2015, the partnership was formalized with the launch of the transCampus initiative.
The aim was to “create a partnership of scientific strength… able to compete with other leading institutions in the United States and across the rest of the globe,” according to the initiative’s website.
Although the focus is currently on scientific research, there are plans to extend the scheme to embrace collaboration in the arts and humanities. A new satellite campus could help to achieve this.
While concerned about the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, Muller-Steinhagen is excited by the proposal and hopeful about the post-Brexit future of higher education across Europe.
“Academics are ingenious,” he said. “We will find solutions.”