After pandemic break, a delegation visits partner universities and research organizations in Japan

University of Tsukuba - (from left to right): Annette Scheersoi, Jonas Fehres, U
University of Tsukuba - (from left to right): Annette Scheersoi, Jonas Fehres, Ulrike Birgit Münch, Christian Klöckner, Rector Michael Hoch, Max Patzek, President Kyosuke Nagata, Katharina Fuchs-Bodde, Caroline F. Benton, Akira Uedono, Masahiro Fukuda. © University of Tsukuba .
After a long unplanned pandemic break, a delegation from the University of Bonn’s Rectorate and International Office visited four partner universities and several research organizations in Japan and formed new cooperation agreements. The goal of the visit was to reinvigorate the University’s existing partnerships and to prepare the ground for further collaborations in research and teaching. Topics of the exchanges were current developments in the German and Japanese higher education and research landscapes as well as university initiatives for more sustainable futures. 

"Japan is a country of research excellence and academic freedom, as well as a trusted and reliable partner in a changed geostrategic environment," says Bonn’s Rector Michael Hoch. This is evident in the longstanding partnership between the University of Bonn and Waseda University, with collaborations and exchanges on a university-wide level. The trusted partnership is especially evident in the decades-long collaboration in the life and medical sciences that has facilitated hundreds of research visits between the two universities. While the 60th-anniversary celebration planned for 2020 had to be canceled due to the pandemic, both universities now look to the future and underlined their shared focus on the importance of equal opportunity, sustainability and dedication to research excellence. Rector Michael Hoch emphasizes: "We are delighted to once again see an uptake in the exchange of researchers and students between our two universities and are excited to have been able to strengthen and extend our partnership further."

Sustainability was one focus point in many of the talks taking place throughout the trip. The University of Bonn’s Vice Rector for Sustainability, Annette Scheersoi, took the opportunity to exchange ideas with colleagues on university initiatives that tackle climate change as well as to explore in which sustainability-related fields of research collaboration could be feasible. "It was interesting to see that all universities struggle with the same questions and have come up with diverse strategies to overcome challenges, making an exchange in this area especially fruitful." 

At the University of Tokyo, a university-wide memorandum of understanding for research collaboration was signed by Rector Michael Hoch and President of the University of Tokyo, Teruo Fujii. In joint talks about transdisciplinary research, diversity and internationalization, President Fujii emphasized the importance of interdisciplinary and intercultural research for the creation of new technologies and green transformation, in which the humanities and social sciences play an important role. The two universities are planning to cooperate more closely, for instance, in the field of philosophy. 

Agreements to further exchange between Japan and Bonn were an important aspect of the delegation visit. "University-wide exchange agreements, as well as programs tailored to specific fields, are both important to bring the number of students moving between Japan and Germany to the pre-pandemic level. Particularly since Japan is a partner of our Global Network and one of our priority countries for collaboration, we will increase measures to further improve Bonn’s visibility among Japanese students", says Birgit Ulrike Münch, Vice Rector for International Affairs. 

In this context, the doctoral candidate exchange program, including joint lectures and practical training, between the Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences in Tokyo and the Center for Development Research (ZEF) in Bonn was renewed and joined by the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Frontier Sciences. In the future, the partners endeavor to build on the graduate student exchange to design new research projects that will include partners in Africa.  

At the University of Tsukuba, Rector Hoch and President Kyosuke Nagata signed the renewal of the university-wide student exchange agreement. Tsukuba is known for its interdisciplinary and international outlook which is also evident in its commitment to the successful tri-national M.A. program "Transnational European and East Asian Culture and History" (TEACH) that Bonn and Tsukuba run together with the University of Seoul in South Korea and whose importance for the partnership was honored.

Director of Bonn’s International Office, Katharina Fuchs-Bodde, is excited about the next steps: "We will build on these high-level meetings to further strengthen our partnerships, to create new research collaborations and to increase the number of exchange students. We are happy to support researchers at the University of Bonn in these endeavors."