The Folkwang University of the Arts is the central music, theatre, dance, design and scholarship training venue in the Ruhr, based in Essen together with the Duisburg, Bochum and Dortmund campuses. As an artistic training centre, it is our objective to train young personalities and guide them to outstanding specialist expertise, a broad educational horizon and a high degree of individuality and creativity. The networking with the metropolitan, cultural life of the Ruhr enables the students at the Folkwang University of the Arts to experience culture as an area encompassing global artistic, pedagogical and academic activity.
At the Folkwang University of the Arts, the combination of the arts disciplines (music, theatre, dance, design and academic studies) represents a unique concept in terms of artistic ethos. The idea of interdisciplinary cooperation as an artistic-pedagogical concept is unique in the world, and this exclusive feature has enabled Folkwang to gain a leading position as an international contact partner for artistic and academic training and practice.
The over 30 percent of foreign students (from all corners of the world) participating in the daily university life has enriched our international profile. At management level, the priority of international activities is represented by the Deputy Director for International Affairs and Events.
One of the key pillars of international strategy at Folkwang is represented by mobilities at all ERASMUS levels (SMS, SMP, STA, STT, PV) and all study cycles. These contribute both to internationalisation generally and "internationalisation at home". The International Office is responsible for all exchange-related tasks. The ECTS accreditations envisaged in the Bologna Process as well as the creation of record transcripts and diploma supplements have now become part of the administration's daily business routine.
The Institute for Lifelong Learning, established in 2011, has underlined the university's internationalisation measures, expanded the range of learning opportunities for exchange students – including via language courses – and has opened up to students the possibility of acquiring not only the knowledge provided in the academic study itself but also the ability to perform in the study course, in professional life as well as in society on a sustainable basis.
From the 2013/14 winter semester, Folkwang – in cooperation with the Université François Rabelais – is offering the bilingual German-French Musicology study course, a course hitherto unique in Germany. Graduates will acquire both the German Bachelor of Arts and the French Licence des Arts et Sciences humaines. The preparation for the European labour market is thereby intensified as a result of the cooperation between music and theatre institutions at both locations.
It is essential that international cooperation as well as a corresponding positioning of the Folkwang University of the Arts addresses the current pressing political and social challenges. The Folkwang concept advocates the indispensability of the social anchoring of art – particularly in those countries, in which art and cultural activities are free and a matter of course – together with the strong conviction of being able to achieve long-term change by means of exchange and dialogue.
To give just one example of this philosophy, since 2009 the Folkwang University of the Arts has been supporting the development of the first professional drama school in Ramallah, Palestine with great success. Our commitment has provided a key contribution in the development of a peaceful society based on dialogue. In 2012, the first students graduated with Bachelor degrees. An extension of the cooperation with universities in Tunisia, Jordan and Iraq is in preparation.
The establishment of the International Shakespeare Festival in 2001 has enabled the development of dialogue between universities from a wide range of countries, such as China, Palestine, Romania, Poland, the USA, Uzbekistan, in a unique manner. For students from different cultures, this challenge of jointly developing the international production represents a major experience of intercultural cooperation each time it takes place.
The cooperation with the Theatre Academy in Shanghai is not the only focus of our collaboration with China. Common ideas are also pursued and regular exchanges organised in the Music Pedagogy and Design study courses.
The key factor governing the implementation of international cooperation projects is the internationalisation strategy defined as the guiding principle of the university orientation. International consolidation of all faculties provides support for the accompanying preparation of the students in the globalised professional reality.
In this respect, the organisation of most of the international cooperations lies in the responsibility of the study courses or faculties themselves, since the cooperation is invariably developed on the basis of artistic contents, while only the logistics is provided by the administrative side.
The Tsinghua Partnership Programme is an example of a university preparatory programme, which prepares outstanding prospective students from China for studying in the Design and Music Faculties on an artistic basis. This one-year university preparatory programme consists of laying the specialist-theoretical and linguistic foundations, thereby creating the conditions for an application with the greatest chance of success.
Gregorian Music has now been included in the special courses on offer at the Folkwang University of the Arts for over 30 years. The activities that the Institute for Gregorian Music is dedicated to, include the planning and realisation of the International Gregorian Music summer courses in Essen, attended each year by some 80 participants from all over the world.
In the area of dance, one special focus is on cooperation with South and Central America. An example of this is our contact to universities in Costa Rica – of particular importance in the coming years.
A further integral component of our international strategy lies in the future collaboration with the former and future European Capitals of Culture. Thanks to its intensive participation at RUHR.2010, Folkwang has excellent connections and possibilities in this regard. For example, an exchange in the area of Physical Theatre and Music has already taken place with Stavanger, one of the European Capitals of Culture in 2008.
The Folkwang University of the Arts wants top performances. This requires integration into an international context. For this reason, its international profile was always of key importance for the Folkwang University of the Arts. The internationalisation process at the Folkwang University of the Arts has educational and culturo-political dimensions, which are aimed at improving the quality of study and teaching via cooperation with international organisations as well as the ability to communicate plus cosmopolitanism through international exchange with students and teaching staff.
In view of an ever growing European cultural and educational area, Europe plays a special role for the Folkwang University of the Arts. It is a question of gaining top-quality young artistic talent and high-class teaching staff from the whole of Europe in all areas, for the purpose of ensuring the permeability of studying and teaching and structurally supporting the mobility of students and teaching staff. Internationalisation does not merely mean improving quality through cooperation, but also cosmopolitanism and dialogue. We assume that all foreign students and teaching staff will return to their own countries as changed persons after being with us and having made so many new experiences. This also applies to students and teaching staff from within Germany, who – thanks to their experiences abroad – become familiar with new perspectives and operational rationales, which may well have appeared strange and incomprehensible to them previously. Our objective here is that they carry forward the core Folkwang expertise from the multi-disciplinary cooperation. This is a completely new concept for other countries. We hope that this will create new impulses – not only in the European educational area. Even in the "Ruhr Metropolis" itself, a region strongly influenced by migration for over 150 years, Folkwang can also contribute to peaceful coexistence as a mirror of social developments.
And for the university itself, international experience is a key factor in contributing to the enhancement of quality – both in teaching and in the students. This experience - including working together in the "daily routine" tuition with students from a wide range of countries, is an invaluable experience both for teaching staff and students – even allowing for all the challenges this poses. It is a question of attaining an intercultural expertise, which is already one of the key experiences necessary to possess for successful work in the range of subjects we offer.
In contrast to science-based universities, what is at stake for us is excellence in artistic, design-related quality as well as first-class pedagogical training. This is inconceivable without international exchange.