Study: What value is attached to the Humboldt Network?

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation recently examined its network in an extensive study. Approximately 7,000 Humboldtians answered the Foundation’s questions online or in personal interviews.

The Foundation is now working on numerous measures and new instruments to make the Network even more attractive. The key findings from the Humboldt Network Study at a glance:

Strong attachment to Germany
In general, contacts with Germany are of great importance to the respondents. This is evidenced in a number of ways, including the fact that the most important collaborative partners of Humboldt Foundation alumni abroad are often located in Germany. Reciprocal visits are frequent. Furthermore, the majority of the alumni see their contacts with Germany as being very important for their career. The attachment to Germany is particularly strong among alumni from countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Alumni act as "ambassadors for Germany"
Approximately three out of every four alumni report that their image of Germany improved as a result of their first stay in Germany. Many Humboldtians become ambassadors in their own country for German culture and science. They pass on their knowledge about Germany and its science and research system not only to researchers and students but also to institutions outside the immediate scientific field and, in the process, convey an up-to-date image of Germany in their native country. Associations, embassies, representatives of business and industry, and bodies that promote science and research perceive them as advisors and experts. Germany’s Federal Foreign Office also underscores the Humboldt Network’s importance for its work and for German cultural relations and education policy in general. Humboldtians play a larger role in the awareness of members of German embassies in developing and threshold countries than for their counterparts in highly developed countries.

The Network gets used
The Humboldt Network is one of several networks in which scientists and scholars around the world are active. Other examples include specialised networks and networks organised by scientific academies. Among the activities investigated by the study, the respondents attached the greatest importance to maintaining personal contacts and to scientific exchanges within the Humboldt Network. This is the case not only for alumni abroad but also for alumni and hosts in Germany, albeit to differing degrees. Alumni abroad also attach greater importance to the search for partners for scientific collaboration than alumni in Germany do.

"We feeling" and emotional ties make the difference
Being a member of the Humboldt Network is considered a privilege. In addition, the surveyed Humboldtians place positive emphasis on being certain that they will belong to this network for the rest of their lives. They describe it as a community of people with similar values and experiences whose members are linked with one another by a “we feeling”. The respondents cite the fact that they have all experienced a stay in Germany, have ties to the Foundation, and the knowledge that they have been singled out as outstanding researchers as essential factors that bind them. The findings from the study show that the added value that the members of the Humboldt Network subjectively feel is primarily emotional and less pragmatic in nature. The Network however also has groups of members, consisting particularly of alumni and hosts in Germany, who prefer a more objective view and tend to see the Network’s usefulness to a greater degree.

Collaborative activities often take place in the network without any assistance from the Foundation
Much of the additional scientific collaboration that takes place between members of the Humboldt Network is not financed by the Foundation. In many cases however, a sponsorship provided by the Humboldt Foundation serves as a catalyst which leads to useful contacts and collaborative activities which can also be financed through other sources.


Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
Press, Communications and Marketing
Phone: +49 228 833-144
Fax: +49 228 833-441

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