A German university is planning to open a campus in London “to send a signal against this crazy Brexit”.
Wolfgang Herrmann, president of the Technical University of Munich, told Times Higher Education that the new outpost would either be a sole TUM venture or a joint enterprise with Imperial College London.
Last October, the two universities formed a “flagship partnership”, with the aim of forging research links, developing student exchanges and exploring new partnerships with industry.
Professor Herrmann said he wanted TUM to capitalise on the “outstanding science, technology and business” in London, but added that opening a London site would also be a political statement.
“We as a university definitely want to set up in London because we believe in the future of this wonderful metropolis in the middle of Europe,” he said.
“At the same time, we want to send a signal against this crazy Brexit development. But irrespective of the [Brexit] outcome, we will continue our plans of settling in London, no doubt.”
Professor Herrmann said that the London site would host both teaching and research activities and would be modelled on TUM’s branch campus in Singapore, which opened in 2002 and involves partnerships with the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University.
“Certainly there must be programmes that do not interfere with our partner Imperial College but add new strengths to their activities and maybe vice versa, if we do a joint venture,” he said.
TUM also has several offices around the world, including one in Mumbai and one in Beijing.
But Professor Herrmann said that while the university has been active in Asia over the past 20 years, it was now “refocusing on Europe”.
“That does not mean that we abandon China…but we noticed that we shouldn’t forget Europe. It’s our homeland,” he said.
He added that he “experienced the growing of a new, peaceful Europe” after the Second World War and saw “how much we all gained from this community [and] from European unity”.
Professor Herrmann said the London campus would be a “small contribution” to show that this unity “can be continued in the future”.
“I think it would be disastrous [if] Europe falls apart…One has to do something to keep it together.”
Speaking about TUM’s partnership with Imperial, Professor Herrmann said the institutions had “almost exactly the same portfolio of disciplines”.
“There are hardly any two universities in Europe that are more similar with regards to portfolio. So we are ideal partners,” he said. “Imperial College very much likes our entrepreneurial activities. We like its strengths in things like artificial intelligence.”
An Imperial spokesman said its “research, education and innovation ties [with TUM] will continue to grow as we explore new ways to increase the impact of what we do together”.
Last year, Imperial launched a partnership with the French National Centre for Scientific Research to ensure its continued access to continental research funding after Brexit.
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