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22 November 2006

Rector of the University of Heidelberg Signs Partnership Agreements in Chile

Transcontinental cooperation signed and sealed — A formal legal footing for the existing good relations between the University of Heidelberg and Chile's two most important universities, the Universidad Católica and the Universidad de Chile

As of 14 November 2006, the good relations between the University of Heidelberg and Chile's two most important universities, the Universidad Católica and the Universidad de Chile, have been placed on a formal legal footing. On that date, the Heidelberg Rector Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff and his South American counterparts signed partnership agreements including joint Master's and doctoral programmes.

For Prof. Dr. Pedro Pablo Rosso, Rector of the Universidad Católica, sharing knowledge is one of the most idealistic ways of achieving world peace, global justice and multicultural understanding. Accordingly, he said, he will be overjoyed to fulfil the new agreements on cooperative research. After the ceremonial signing of the agreement he presented his German guest with a newly created distinction. For the first time ever, the Universidad Católica awarded the "Pro Mundi Vita" medal, a token of gratitude for the trust evinced by the University's international partners.

Accepting the distinction on behalf of the University of Heidelberg, Rector Hommelhoff expressed his hope that it would serve as a foundation for further in-depth cooperation and at the same time his intention to extend the existing agreements in the future. "With the programmes for doctoral students the two universities have arrived at the interface between advancement and research," said Hommelhoff. As there was scope for more collaboration in this direction, he announced the subsequent institution of negotiations on the next stages in the process.

The joint doctorate in psychotherapy engineered by the University of Heidelberg, the Universidad Católica and the Universidad de Chile will be of especial significance in this respect. On the same day, Hommelhoff met with Prof. Dr. Victor Pérez Vera, president of the largest Chilean university, the Universidad de Chile, to embark on another partnership. Alongside the provision of joint academic degrees, this partnership also extends to the exchange of teaching staff and students, as well as to joint classes to be run at the Heidelberg Center in Santiago de Chile. "We want to offer our students the best education possible," said Pérez Vera on the subject of the objectives of the agreement, "so we are greatly interested in intensifying the cooperation with Heidelberg University."

In general terms Pérez Vera acclaimed the idea of cooperation between universities. But once they entered into formal agreements like those between the Universidad de Chile and its German partner, then truly remarkable results could justifiably be expected on both sides, he said. He expressed his confidence that the mutual support required for this would be amply forthcoming, referring in this context to the outstanding commitment and motivation displayed by the deans and professors of his university. This made itself felt at the ceremony itself. Even before the agreement was signed and sealed, the Faculties outlined their expectations with regard to the partnership. Initially, however, the subjects psychotherapy and law will be in the forefront of interest. "We want the success of these projects to generate further new ideas," Hommelhoff said. He recommended acceptance of the offer made by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). On 19 October the DAAD and its pendant, the National Commission for Research and Technology (CONICYT) announced the decision to award 220 grants for junior scientists and scholars, from which the partner universities could profit directly.

Heidelberg has entertained outstanding relations with Chile's two most illustrious universities for a number of decades. Well over 500 students from Chile have studied and/or done their doctorates at the University of Heidelberg, among them major figures in Chilean society, like the constitutional judge Mario Fernández.

Hommelhoff emphasised that at present Santiago was the single most significant location for the worldwide activities of his university. Since 2002 it has had a permanent outstation in Chile, in the form of the Heidelberg Center, headed by Dr. Walter Eckel. This graduation and continuing education centre is at the disposal of students from all over the world. "Demand is high," said Eckel, "and this in itself calls warrants expansion." The Center has firmly established itself in the higher education landscape in Chile, largely because it has from the outset sought close connections with the two largest seats of higher education, the Universidad de Chile and the Universidad Católica, both of them research universities like Heidelberg. This success clearly indicates that the location was the right choice.

Florian Fiene

Please address any inquiries to:
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317
michael.schwarz@rektorat.uni-heidelberg.de
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