King’s College Europe?

Nestled within the heart of Saxony, Germany, a large, beautiful and picturesque city lies, with a deep cultural, political and academic past that is potentially set to establish the way in which King’s College London operates in many years to come.

The metropolis of Dresden curves out a distinctive silhouette within the German landscape and is most famous for its lush scenery, UNESCO heritage sites and spacious courtyards, each full to the brim of rich culture. However, the city of Dresden is primarily home to Technische Universität Dresden, one of the most highly respected research based universities in the world. It is here that one is able to find a strong connection to our front doorstep – London.

King’s College London and Technische Universität Dresden (TU) have established a strong relationship that, if successful, is set to carry on into the future.

The Transcampus Initiative, as it was so aptly named, began its work back in 2015. The first of its kind within Europe, it attempts to foster partnership between two of Europe’s most distinguished academic institutions. The premise was simple: ‘To support and enable collaborations in various fields on research and exchange.’ In doing so, strong foundations on which to build an academic platform for European students would be created.

In an increasingly global society, where competition is often valued over collaboration, the initiative was exciting to witness. It was almost inevitable that the transCampus project would prosper, and over the last two years, it has shown significant promise, broadening its horizons and successfully promoting knowledge transfer across the continent through its ‘partnership of scientific strength’.

Particularly of note, is the ground-breaking success the transCampus initiative has already had within its primary base of work – the department of Life Sciences and Medicine. London-Dresden has already become one of the largest transplant centres in the world and is achieving pioneering efforts in islet cells, kidney and bone marrow transplantation. And with moves to establish connections with further King’s departments, both in the Sciences and eventually the Arts, London-Dresden may well soon be a role model for other universities to follow.

However, on the 23rd June 2016, the academic future of universities across Europe was plunged into doubt with the shock result of the Brexit referendum. Now, with Britain making its first moves to exit the European Union, travel, partnership and academia no longer have a clear and definite plan.

In a situation such as this, many have said that a research based, trans-campus project will become even more valuable, providing a definite and sure link between the United Kingdom, that once had open access to opportunities in the mainland continent, and Germany as an EU superpower. Indeed, if the transCampus initiative was already showing so much success, surely it would be a shame to neglect the project entirely due to political shifts. It appears, however, this is not a thought which even crossed the minds of the leaders of the transCampus project, and rumours slowly began to circulate within major news outlets that the relationship between King’s and Technische Universität Dresden may be even deeper than the transCampus initiative depicted.

With a number of UK universities already considering the establishment of campuses abroad, the idea of an international university such as King’s undertaking the same is not difficult to imagine. And with ties already established to the heart of Germany in Dresden, could there be potential for an offshore College?

According to a recent report, the answer could well be a resounding ‘Yes’.

Speaking to Times Higher Education, Professor Stefan Bornstein, Director and Chairman of TU Medicine, an honorary consultant in diabetes and endocrinology at the College and the transCampus Dean, stated that an “offshore King’s College Europe institution in Dresden” is already “in the process”, and would enable King’s to continue its European presence and benefit from European research funding after withdrawal from the European Union. In the meanwhile, TU Dresden would be keen to strengthen its links to London.

If King’s were to go ahead with these alleged plans to create a ‘King’s College Europe’, then the College would be the first Higher Education institution to create a physical and established campus on the mainland continent after the Brexit decision, a bold move in testing political times.

It appears talks for a King’s College Europe were already in the process before the Brexit referendum, however as Professor Bornstein stated, the decision had made the potential partnership “a lot more interesting” and a solution to “this very stupid Brexit idea.”

And if King’s were to establish a European campus, Dresden is undoubtedly a top choice. Dubbed ‘Silicon Saxony’, after the infamous ‘Silicon Valley’ in California, Dresden is Germany’s answer to the extreme technological advances being made on the West Coast of the United States. TU Dresden is an infamous and formidable academic force to be reckoned with within Germany and across the world in science and technology.

Furthermore, with a seven percent drop in university applications from EU students this year, a King’s College Europe may potentially continue to persuade students from Europe to continue to attend the College, even if it is in a different continent from the UK.

“It seems to be a good idea,” said one medical student, “If the transCampus is successful, then why not go a step further and create a new campus? European students may be dissuaded from coming to London, so why not get a chance to study somewhere great in Europe instead?”

Other plans for international campuses from UK universities after Brexit have been refuted, perhaps the most notable, Oxford’s alleged Paris campus. But international hubs where students are able to study abroad, have, on the whole, been successful across the globe. With two world-leading universities potentially partnering up even further to establish a new campus, undoubtedly driven by their existing research, it is likely the campus would be successful, and may serve to fix the cracks in a severed relationship with Europe.

A King’s spokesperson relayed the College opinion on the partnership, “King’s values the transCampus initiative with Technische Universität 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.”

The transCampus initiative will continue to run, unhampered by the Brexit referendum which took place just over a year ago. However, in a rapidly changing Europe, with the Brexit deadline drawing ever closer, the academic world no doubt waits with baited breath for London-Dresden to make the first move.


This article originally appeared in print – September 2017