Internationalisation of Hamburg University of Technology

(Technische Universität Hamburg-Harburg – TUHH)

Since it was founded in 1978, TUHH has established a profile as one of the most innovative German universities in terms of its organisational structures and its openness to collaboration with national and international institutions. TUHH has many active student exchange partnerships with top-tier universities in Europe and worldwide. It was one of the first German universities to offer degree courses taught in English. With 20% of its students originating from outside Germany, TUHH has one of the most international student mixes of any German university. Strategic research partnerships with multinationals such as Airbus mean that there is a tradition of conducting research in a multidisciplinary international context, and many of TUHH’s academic staff are internationally known and actively engaged with researchers across the globe. Through its knowledge transfer subsidiary, TuTech, TUHH has high visibility and is a valued consulting partner in research and innovation policy circles for European research funding programmes. Many TUHH academics advise on policy formation and standards at the international level.

However, in a world where competition for talent is at a premium and many universities are positioning themselves in a global context, TUHH must do more to strengthen its position in an international field and ensure that this is reflected in international university rankings. Students expect universities to equip them for a job market that demands not only academic qualifications in a specific discipline, but also a global mindset, intercultural capabilities and highly developed language skills. Because TUHH is relatively small, it needs to be exceptionally well networked and visible in the wider world so that it can build the critical mass needed for strong research teams through partnerships. An outstanding research reputation combined with internationally recognized teaching excellence is a prerequisite for attracting undergraduate and postgraduate students from all over the world. In turn, this capability is a basis for the business community to engage with and fund TUHH’s activities. TUHH seeks to attract top-quality students and internationally renowned researchers in order to appeal to other partners who operate in a global context and to contribute to Hamburg’s standing as a global research and innovation hub.

To meet this challenge, TUHH’s immediate objective should be to develop a strategic plan with the goal of repositioning TUHH as a globally ranked university on the strength of its teaching, research and services.

Key directions for TUHH’s international orientation should be benchmarking the status quo, establishing meaningful partnerships with leading universities on each continent, strengthening TUHH’s Baltic Sea Region orientation, emphasising TUHH’s partnerships in the European Consortium of Innovative Universities (ECIU) more strongly, and undertaking international university branding of key areas of TUHH’s activities.

Internationalisation impinges on all aspects of TUHH activities: education and learning, research, knowledge transfer services, its contribution to Hamburg, branding and PR. The following objectives are proposed:

  • to achieve greater global visibility for TUHH so as to attract top students and researchers from the worldwide talent pool;
  • to be regarded as an attractive long-term strategic partner for institutions abroad, including both globally operating industrial enterprises and multinationals as well as universities;
  • to ensure that TUHH graduates are sought after in the international labour market;
  • to contribute to Hamburg’s standing as a globally recognised research and innovation
    hub;
  • to contribute to Hamburg’s cultural and intellectual diversity and the well-being of the local community;
  • to substantiate that TUHH is a responsible ‘global corporate citizen’ willing and able to share its strengths and assets to address global challenges.


The achievement of these objectives requires establishing a process that will involve the entire university at all levels. It is recognised that the different contexts of individual researchers and research institutes must be taken into account. At the same time there is a need to drive the related process of forging strategic partnerships for TUHH’s competence fields in green technologies, life sciences, and aviation and maritime logistics. The overall process must, therefore, accommodate both ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top-down’ approaches that assign responsibilities and duties regarding the internationalisation of research, teaching, administration and services at the institute, faculty, and university levels. Student organisations and external stakeholders such as industrial partners and the City of Hamburg are also considered to be partners in this activity. The process will encompass continuous review and benchmarking of all activities relating to internationalisation and work to improve their quality.

Key questions that must be addressed include: What role should university rankings have in shaping TUHH’s international orientation? What international partnerships exist today and which does TUHH wish to maintain, strengthen or establish in the future? What services are important for Bachelor and Master students, and how can TUHH better offer those services than other universities? How much teaching should be offered in English? How can TUHH provide conditions that are attractive to top international researchers? How should TUHH be presented internationally? How should the internationalisation process be coordinated and measured, and who should be involved in its development?

In summary, the goal is to ensure that the quality of the educational experience and research at TUHH is recognised as being among the best in the world, so that TUHH is seen to be a globally distinguished partner for universities and multinationals. By offering optimum conditions for its students and researchers to engage with international challenges and by global outreach at all levels, TUHH wishes to contribute to Hamburg’s standing as a globally recognised location for research and innovation. To achieve this ambitious goal, TUHH will initiate a process that involves representatives of the entire university and its key stakeholders in developing the internationalisation strategy and activities to support it.