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The name Alexander von Humboldt is synonymous with the best ambassador for Germany as a country of science. The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation launched the ideas competition “Research alumni of universities in Germany” in April 2011 and the winners have now been selected. The University of Heidelberg is one of the three winners and was awarded a prize for its best practice model for working with the university’s research alumni.
The University of Heidelberg's winning concept involves active and sustainable cooperation with its international research alumni, i.e. international scientists who have at some stage studied or completed a research stay at the University of Heidelberg. The University of Heidelberg was awarded funding of 130,000 euros for a period of 18 months for its best practice model. The objective of the model is to establish closer links between the alumni and the university, thus integrating alumni into the university's internationalization strategy. The activities associated with this objective are to start in October 2011. The University of Heidelberg will offer advice and services to its alumni during their stay in Heidelberg and after they have relocated to new institutions in Germany and abroad, as well as networking meetings and invitations to return to Heidelberg. The funds will also be used to recruit more students and young scientists from abroad, especially from countries such as India, Italy and the USA where the university already has a lot of contact with research alumni. Networking meetings will be organised in these countries. Other plans include establishing re-invitation fellowships and providing information on funding opportunities for research alumni who have relocated to other countries after their stay in Heidelberg.
In addition to the University of Heidelberg, RWTH Aachen University and the University of Bayreuth were also awarded funding for their "Research alumni of universities in Germany" concepts. The competition is part of the "International Research Marketing" cooperative project run by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the German Academic Exchange Service, the German Research Foundation and the Fraunhofer Society as part of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research's "Research in Germany" initiative, which aims to promote Germany's research landscape and increase its profile in the global science market.
The most sustainable alumni contacts are the result of the research scholarships and research prizes awarded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. The author of this article experienced this himself when he was collecting information about China's universities in the mid-1990s, at a time when Chinese universities were hardly known. It was the network of Chinese Humboldtians that opened many doors for him. The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation's motto is: "Once a Humboldtian, always a Humboldtian" - it is an awareness of being something special, a member of a worldwide family with whom one remains associated throughout one's life.
Every year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation makes it possible for more than 2,000 researchers from around the world to come to Germany to work on a research project in cooperation with their German colleagues. The criteria for Alexander von Humboldt scholarships and prizes are the applicants' academic record; there are no quotas per country or per academic discipline. The foundation supports people, not projects. Humboldtians are free to choose their host institutions and research projects themselves; they have an extremely good reputation around the world. There are more than 25,000 Humboldt Foundation alumni in over 130 countries worldwide, including 44 Nobel Prize winners.
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