Collaboration between King’s College London and a leading German university is set to result in the establishment of the first offshore campus of a UK higher education institution to be set up on the Continent in the wake of the country’s vote to leave the European Union.
The “Transcampus” initiative run by King’s and TU Dresden has sought to drive collaborative research initiatives between the two universities since 2015, and currently offers 10 joint professorships and several joint PhD programmes.
Stefan Bornstein, Transcampus dean, director and chair of the department of medicine at TU Dresden and chair and honorary consultant in diabetes and endocrinology at King’s, said that an “offshore King’s College Europe institution in Dresden” is “in the process”.
Professor Bornstein said that this would allow King’s to have a presence in Europe and maintain access to European research funding post-Brexit, while TU Dresden would benefit from increased ties to London, one of the “leading academic centres in the world”.
Dresden is the hub of “Silicon Saxony”, an association of nearly 300 companies in the microelectronics sector, and home to several prestigious research centres including three Max Planck Institutes and eight Fraunhofer Society institutes.
A number of UK universities are thought to be considering opening branch campuses in Europe after Brexit. Earlier this year, news reports claimed that the University of Oxford was in talks to open a campus in Paris, but the institution denied this.
Alongside providing access to research funding, such outposts may also prove popular with students: a recent survey conducted by student recruitment company Hobsons found that 69 per cent of prospective students based outside the EU would be very likely or somewhat likely to choose to study at a continental base of a UK university.
Professor Bornstein said that the new campus would hopefully run new undergraduate courses “linked to innovation and the needs of industry and society” as well as the existing joint PhD programmes.
He said that the Transcampus project was envisaged before the EU referendum, but admitted that it “[is] a lot more interesting” now that the vote has happened. He added that he hopes the collaboration will enable the universities to recruit leading scholars from around the world.
“We cannot allow things that have developed for so many years in a positive way [to be] hampered or impaired by political decisions that actually nobody really wanted,” he said. “It’s a nice way to have a solution to get around this very stupid Brexit idea.”
The joint appointments are currently in the fields of medicine and life sciences, with the academics benefiting from joint grants, increased funding and the exchange of medical samples and patients, but there are plans for these professorships to expand to other subjects related to science and the arts, he said.
The professorships allow academics to take advantage of the different regulations around clinical trials in both countries, to speed up translational research, as well as research funding in both countries, Professor Bornstein added.
He noted that there are already useful links between museums in the two cities. German museum director Martin Roth has headed up both the Victoria and Albert Museum and Dresden State Art Collections, while Neil MacGregor, the founding director of the Humboldt Forum in Berlin, formerly led the British Museum and the National Gallery.
Professor Bornstein said that he would expect the Transcampus model to be replicated by other universities in the UK and Europe, but stressed that the key to its success is the fact that researchers at the two institutions have long collaborated.
A King’s spokeswoman said: “King’s values the Transcampus initiative with TU Dresden, which demonstrates the success of cross-national and institutional links. We will continue to work together in various fields on research and exchange, and discuss potential further collaborations.”