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Dr. Franz B. Humer, Chairman of the Foundation Board

Even just a few years ago, most doctoral candidates planned, researched and wrote their theses in the rooms and laboratories of their respective universities. Extended stays abroad working on theses were the exception, not the rule. However, as our co-operation with the Universities of Zurich, Salzburg and Basel shows – this trend has changed fundamentally. Most of the young scientists that we have been fortunate enough to support since 2007 have spent at least a year living abroad during their thesis. Whether they chose Asia, Africa or Europe, I am convinced that the insights resulting from these stays abroad have significantly enhanced the quality of the individual pieces of work. They give the publications practical relevance and thus enhanced value.

However, it seems even more important to me that theses with an international focus significantly broaden the young academics’ experience. This is because it is only when one has crossed national borders and incorporated the reality of living in all manner of different countries that one gains insights which cannot be found within the four walls of a university.

From our regular encounters with doctoral candidates, I repeatedly become aware that, when they talk about their semester abroad, some things that still seemed very theoretical concepts suddenly come to life. And it becomes clear why writing a thesis also makes a lot of sense in the Bologna era. At this stage, the young people are laying the foundations of knowledge upon which they can draw later in their career and which make them capable of performing at their best.

Working internationally has long formed part of the everyday life at most companies – and we are not just talking about the large, global corporations. Even those who work for an SME or in the public sector after finishing their thesis will sooner or later be faced with questions that are easier to answer by drawing on their experience of living overseas. As far as my own personal experience shows, thinking globally also helps to adopt a more focused and successful approach in a national context. And that leads us back to the core of our Foundation’s work: we do not support theses on account of the titles they confer, but rather we see them as the basis for a meaningful professional career that delivers outstanding success.

What we know about the next career move of doctoral candidates who completed their theses a few years ago with our financial support confirms this beyond all doubt. And I am glad to admit that, we on the Foundation Board are occasionally a little proud when we learn about the professional feats of “our“ former students. That is why we are motivated to continue our work over the coming years too in close co-operation with the universities.


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