Letter: Common flaws

December 1, 2000

I refer to Osman Durrani's, review of two books on British-German relations, in which he develops a discourse about the development of dubious myths and prejudices in this relationship (Books, THES, November 10).

As a British Germanist, Durrani is a neutral observer so his conclusion is worth thinking about: he ascertains that a strengthened economic self-awareness of his own people is leading to a certain sympathy, maybe even to friendly support in dealing with Germans.

I stopped short at the following sentence: "Increasing confidence, industrial muscle and a strong currency could eventually succeed where countless Goethe Institute initiatives and DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) bursaries were slow to generate visible results."

Durrani and his institute have for years profited considerably from the bursaries, especially from a lektor placed at his university and co-funded by the DAAD.

As director of the DAAD London office it occurred to me that perhaps these funds would be put to better use at a different university. There is a long history of success of German culture and mediator organisations in the UK.

The programme for joint academic exchange, Academic Research Collaboration, is under threat because of the sudden withdrawal of finance from the British Council, a decision that goes along with the halving of the British Council budget for Germany and with the closure of four of the five offices in Germany. This shocking news is felt more poignantly because no one involved was informed and the council independently put out an official press release to announce these extreme developments.

Will such a measure solve problems such as the dramatic decreasing interest in the learning of modern languages, which British schools and universities fight against? Is this the basis for a common way to a united Europe?

Nina Lemmens Director, DAAD Buro, London

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