Being an international university means maintaining good relationships with other universities around the world. Last week, the Deputy President, the University Director, heads of schools, KTH Senior Advisor International Strategies and I visited Munich.
The purpose of the visit was to strengthen our relationship with the Technical University of Munich (TUM). A lot of collaboration with TUM is already underway in many areas of research, and around 10 students from KTH Royal Institute of Technology go there on short or slightly longer exchanges every year. KTH also hosts several students from TUM.
Global relations involve maintaining close contact and cooperation with our peers, but also being a role model for universities that want to improve as well as interacting more with international universities that serve as role models for KTH.
Today KTH has five international partner universities, and we are currently in discussion with Queen Mary University of London about the possibility of it becoming a sixth such partner to us.
But TUM is of particular interest for a number of reasons, not least because it is ranked No. 1 in Germany. TUM has a faculty of medicine that contributes to the university’s high position in international ranking lists.
Otherwise, TUM and KTH are similar in terms of their respective technology domains. But there are also differences, as Germany’s federal states have an independent role and they also strongly support their universities. Our impression is that TUM is a relatively rich university. This is apparent in the way professors are recruited there and then granted access to numerous associated services and laboratories when they take up their positions. That’s hard for KTH to match.
The systematic work being done to ensure worldwide visibility is very interesting. TUM has offices in every part of the world, which are usually staffed by locals. To them, being represented in Brussels is a given. These offices around the world are mainly used to recruit students, but also to help establish research contacts.
TUM has a fully-developed international campus in Singapore .TUM is present there as an independent company, because just as in Sweden, state funding cannot be used outside the home country’s borders. But via this company structure, TUM provides both first cycle and second cycle courses and study programmes. In Singapore, the organisation is funded by tuition fees and by German companies located there.
The students come primarily from Asia, and companies tend to provide resources because of their need for educated staff. The TUM company was established 15 years ago and our impression is that it is doing well. TUM in Singapore is located in the same building as MIT and other international centres of learning. Having a company that operates as an international campus is an interesting set-up, but is not something that Swedish universities like ours are allowed to do – at least not yet. Over the years, various initiatives have been taken at KTH that could be likened to having a campus outside Sweden.
Establishing outposts abroad can be risky and must, of course, provide the university with clear added value. The basic principle that state funding must remain in Sweden is self-evident. And if a different setup is to work at all, it is important that it can be financed locally on-site – where the campus is located.
We also visited TUM’s innovation unit, the Entrepreneurship Center, which is located just outside Munich, in Garching. An impressively large area is set aside there for MakerSpace, where all manner of workshop equipment is available. KTH also has many such workshops. The inspiring thing was discovering that companies (both large and small) can become members by paying a fee, which gives them access to all the equipment. This secures funding for the activities, which of course benefits TUM as a university.
And, as the icing on the cake, KTH organised an alumni event one evening. The Munich Alumni Chapter is celebrating its fifth anniversary this spring. There are approximately 380 KTH alumni in the Munich area, which makes them the largest such group in Germany. It was enjoyable to meet former students who all really value the education they received at KTH. This time, we also invited KTH students who are currently participating in exchange programmes in Munich, as well as German exchange students. This proved to be very popular.
It reminded me of how important our alumni are as ambassadors for KTH. The focused efforts made over the past few years to build this up are beginning to pay dividends. One of the alumni mentioned to me that we are fairly unique in working with this concept in the Nordics, but that universities in our neighbouring countries are starting to turn to KTH to learn more about it.
It is always appreciated if you inform the KTH Alumni Office when you travel abroad to conferences or on exchanges of various kinds. You are always more than welcome to hold a lecture for one of the 20+ alumni associations around the world, for example. Most of these associations hold around 4-6 meetings a year, and a visit by a “KTH-er” is always appreciated.