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12 September 2006

University of Heidelberg Successful in Alumni Plus Programme

Programme organised by German Academic Exchange Service — Inter-networks for alumni to be stepped up via foundation of chapters worldwide — First chapter to be established in Luxembourg on 26 October 2006 — Network in USA and Europe to follow soon — Internet resources to be enhanced

In the framework of the Alumni Plus promotion programme, the University of Heidelberg has obtained full available funding from the German Academic Exchange Service. Germany's universities were invited to apply for resources by presenting projects incorporated into an overall planning strategy for long-term, university-wide contact with former students. The aim is to improve work in the alumni sector and systematically maintain and encourage contacts between international students and their respective German alma mater. Alumni Plus encompasses a whole range of funding lines, including continuing education seminars for former students and the enhancement of internet and publication offerings.

It is now ten years since Heidelberg Alumni International (HAI) first saw the light of day following an initiative by the International Relations Office. The University of Heidelberg now plans to extend this successful alumni network and place it on a genuinely permanent footing. To this end it intends to systematically establish alumni chapters designed to act as "seminal cells" abroad and enhance the development of the network initiated in Heidelberg. The contacts already existing will then be drawn upon to establish national or regional chapters with the help of the Alumni Plus programme.

Dr. Joachim Gerke, head of the University of Heidelberg's International Relations Department, welcomes the go-ahead from the Academic Exchange Service as an important fillip for alumni work at the University. "These resources will help us to move into a higher gear," he says. "After the re-establishment of contact with our former students and strengthening the links to their alma mater, we now want to get them all connected up in one big network. This way, we can assure the continuity of activities in the different countries and create a global network of 'outstations' performing important functions both for the alumni and the University itself."

On 26 October 2006 the establishment of a first chapter within the framework of Alumni Plus is due to take place in Luxembourg. For Silke Rodenberg, the head of HAI, this is a gratifying prospect indeed for it was in Luxembourg that she experienced the first alumni meeting after taking over her post in Heidelberg. Next year there are plans for an initial seminar in Heidelberg for alumni prepared to take an active part in chapter work for their countries or regions. Alongside factual content and soft skills the seminar will also encourage exchange and contact amongst the alumni themselves. However different the prevailing conditions in the different locations may be, all of them are confronted by similar concerns and requirements when it comes to setting up a chapter.

"Financial support from the Academic Exchange Service will enable Heidelberg Alumni International to realise plans of its own," says Rodenberg, "including the foundation of a network in the USA and the preparation of various chapter establishments we have had in mind for some time." In Europe the following areas will be the first the HAI will concentrate on: western Europe (the Benelux countries and France), eastern central Europe starting with Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, and Greece, where existing contacts can be drawn upon.

In the United States the focus will initially be on the east coast (New York, Massachusetts) and the region around Chicago. Because of the large number of American alumni and the size of the country the ultimate plan is to establish several regional chapters in the east, south, middle west and west. A first preparatory meeting in the United States is planned for 2007. Here the contacts generated by the new Heidelberg Center in Amherst (Massachusetts) will play a key role.

Alongside the establishment of these chapters the Alumni Plus programme will also be used to enhance internet offerings. As soon as committed alumni have been identified in connection with serious alumni activities, they will be presented as contact persons on the chapter's website. In this way it will be possible to document each stage in the establishment and extension process and at the same time to recruit more alumni. The internet sites will also serve as information sources and "virtual offices" for contact with universities and enterprises.

For 2006 the Alumni Plus programme of the German International Exchange Service received 63 applications from German universities for a total resource volume of 1.3 million euros. In 2007 the available funding will amount to 3.2 million euros and in 2008 to 1.8 million. The resources can be used for such things as staffing (including student assistants), material costs and travel expenses.

Oliver Fink

Please address any inquiries to:
Dr. Joachim Gerke
International Office (AAA)
University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542335

Silke Rodenberg
Heidelberg Alumni International
phone: 06221/543489

(for journalists)
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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