European Geologist Journal 42

Internationalisation in Mining Engineering at Clausthal University of Technology

By Dr.-Ing. Elisabeth Clausen* and Univ.-Prof. Dr.-Ing. Oliver Langefeld

*Institute of Mining, Clausthal University of Technology, Germany


Securing the supply of raw materials in an efficient, economically-feasible, environmentally-friendly and socially-accepted manner is a global concern and challenge. For coping with these challenges in such a global economy, internationalisation in teaching and research plays an increasingly important role. For several years, the Institute of Mining at Clausthal University of Technology (Germany) has pushed forward internationalisation in the field of Mining Engineering, for example by establishing an international, English-speaking study programme “M.Sc. in Mining Engineering″ and by building up cooperation structures with renowned universities in Europe, Africa, the USA, South America and Asia, as well as by fostering international research collaborations. The article gives an overview of successfully implemented structures, programmes and initiatives as well as current activities for fostering internationalisation in the field of Mining Engineering at Clausthal University of Technology.

1. Introduction

Due to the high dependency of the European industry on the international market, the secure accessibility and availability  as well as sustainable supply and use of raw materials is one of the EU`s central societal challenges for the next centuries. The raw material sector is inherently international as a result of economic, social, geological and geopolitical factors. In combination with the increased importance of knowledge and information, the internationalisation of higher education has also become increasingly important in recent years. Europe, Germany and Clausthal University of Technology have a long mining tradition and long-term experience in the development of mining engineering education systems in an international environment. For several years, the Institute of Mining at Clausthal University of Technology has pushed forward internationalisation in the field of Mining Engineering.

Based on the definition of Knight (1994), internationalisation in this context is addressed as the “process of integrating an international/intercultural dimension into the teaching, research and service functions of the institutions.” International and intercultural aspects and elements form an integral part in the continuous development of our academic programmes, research and scholarly collaborations, as well as in extra-curricular activities. After an introduction to Clausthal University of Technology, this article will give an overview of examples of successfully implemented structures and programmes as well as current activities for fostering internationalisation at the Institute of Mining at Clausthal University of Technology. The activities described will mainly focus on the area of education; additionally specific emphasis will be put on the description of recently running DAAD-International Study and Apprenticeship (ISAP) programmes with Namibia University of Science and Technology, the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru in Lima before the article concludes with a summary and outlook.

2. Clausthal University of Technology

Today’s Clausthal University of Technology (CUT) was founded in 1775 as a mining academy. During its history, the Royal School of Mines (1864) broadened its focus and covers today within the framework of research and study programmes the whole range from Raw Materials to Material Sciences, through Mechanical and Process Engineering to Economics, Computer Science and Advanced Electronic Waste Recycling. CUT’s main interdisciplinary research areas are “Sustainable Energy Systems”, “Raw Materials Supply and Resource Efficiency”, “Innovative Materials and Processes for Competitive Products”, and “Open Cyber-Physical Systems and Simulation”; more than 50% of the faculty are acting in raw materials related research areas. The university has a well-established network of regional, nationwide and international industrial and academic partners along the whole value chain of raw materials. Currently, approximately 5,000 students are enrolled at Clausthal University of Technology in 13 B.Sc. and 18 M.Sc. Programmes. With about 1,400 international students (30%) and around 20% of its faculty coming from abroad, CUT is considered as one of the most international universities in Germany. The university has around 150 co-operation agreements with universities and research facilities worldwide and ranks number 2 in terms of incoming students among all German universities within the IAESTE (International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience) programme. A variety of activities regarding international and intercultural aspects, for example language courses, certification on intercultural competence or administrative support for student exchange and staff mobility, are offered by the International Center Clausthal. The University runs several student laboratories and a Research and Teaching Mine in cooperation with the World Cultural Heritage Rammelsberg, a former ore mine with more than 1,000 years of production. Good teaching in an international and intercultural environment with the integration of competence-oriented, student-centred innovative teaching and learning approaches is important for CUT (Clausen, 2015). To this end, the Centre for Higher Education offers a Professional Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education as well as a variety of different courses in higher education and personal coaching.

3. Integration of the International Dimension in Academic Programmes and Activities

For integrating the international dimension in Mining Engineering related activities and programmes at the Institute of Mining at Clausthal University of Technology, a process-oriented approach has been strategically performed during recent years. In the process-oriented approach “emphasis is placed on the concept of enhancing and sustaining the international dimensions of research, teaching and service. Integration is key to the process and strategies which focus on both academic activities as well as organisational factors are central to achieving a successful and sustainable integration of the international dimension.” (Knight, 1999, p. 23). The following overview and description will focus on international[1] programme strategies including three major categories: academic programmes, research and scholarly activities and extra-curricular activities.

Academic Programmes

To integrate an international and intercultural dimension into curriculum development and the teaching and learning process, Clausthal University of Technology switched completely in 2014 from a German-speaking to a fully English-speaking course in Mining Engineering, thus attracting more international students. This study programme – with currently about 90% of students from outside Germany – is highly international and intercultural. In addition, the overall curricula as well as course content and teaching/learning concepts were geared towards these changing requirements and expected working areas of the future graduates. Moreover, the Institute of Mining fosters student and staff mobility through the implementation of exchange programmes, for example the ISAP Programme,  by offering summer research internships, by inviting and including visiting lecturers from industry and other universities into the courses and by developing cooperation with mining universities from leading mining countries as well as emerging countries. Examples of recently signed agreements are those with the Indian School of Mines (Dhanbad, India), China University of Mining and Technology (Beijing, China), the University of Dar-es-Salaam (Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania) and the National Technical University of Kazakhstan (Almaty, Kazakhstan). Alongside with agreements on the general exchange of students and credit transfer, the establishment of double degrees is intended. Through the programmes of the International Centre Clausthal, i.e. language courses or courses on intercultural competence, the students are well prepared for studying or working in an international and intercultural environment. Academic programmes are linked with current research activities through final-year thesis work.

Research and Scholarly Activities

This category comprises all international activities related to research, research collaborations and the dissemination of research results. In accordance with this issue, Clausthal University of Technology (CUT) has been developing strategic partnerships along the whole value chain of raw materials with regional, national and international partners. For instance CUT is a partner in the German Resource Research Centre (GERRI) as well as a core partner in the EIT KIC Raw Materials allocated to Co-location Centre CLC West. CUT is contributing so far to the objectives of the KIC with activities in Up-Scaling, Network of Infrastructure, Wider Society Learning and PhD/Master Education related to primary and secondary resources as well as substitution of critical raw materials in products. Through these strategic partnerships, international research as well as education cooperation and collaboration are fostered and significantly enhanced. In addition, research results are regularly published in international journals and presented at international conferences and seminars. What is more, through the worldwide professional network SOMP – Society of Mining Professors – members have the opportunity of exchanging ideas and developing fields of collaboration annually.

Extra-Curricular Activities

“Extracurricular activities can be an effective way to internationalise the total educational experience of both domestic and international students and help to bring a comparative perspective to the classroom” (Knight, 1999, p. 25). Therefore, the Institute of Mining has been supporting student activities, clubs and associations through various ways. An example is the newly founded association Minex-Clausthal e.V., which was founded by Mining Engineering students of the Institute of Mining. Minex is the first SME (Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration) Student Chapter in Germany. Their main objective is to enhance the educational experience of the students by:

  • Encouraging the improvement of their technical and soft skills through the presentation of their research work in international seminars and conferences;
  • Creating opportunities for effective relations between the students and raw material industry, attending on-site tours and solving real study case projects;
  • Shaping the future together with the faculty, industry and alumni by building a strong professional network.

Intended activities are, among others:

  • Development of industrial contacts and field trips;
  • Establishment of study groups and tutoring;
  • Participation in international mining games;
  • Participation in the SME international student mine design competition.

4. International Study and Apprenticeship Programmes (ISAP)

Since 2011 the Institute of Mining has run different “International Study and Apprenticeship Partnerships” (ISAP), which is a programme of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The objective of this programme is the development of long term and sustainable institutional cooperation structures between partner universities. During the programme, sustainable structures related to credit and grade transfer, curricula and course enhancement as well as additional activities for fostering student and staff mobility are to be developed. Partners in these programmes have been and are leading mining universities from Namibia (Namibia University of Science and Technology), South Africa (University of Pretoria) and Peru (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Peru). In addition to featuring different cultural backgrounds and languages, each of the partner university countries is famous for its mining industry, culture and special characteristics. For example, South -Africa is famous for the deepest ore mines of the world (around -4,000 m) and its related challenges, while Peru is famous for the highest mines in the world (+4,000 m) and a variety of minerals and mining activities. Germany, on the other hand, is famous for its deepest and high-performing hard-coal mining operations as well as for high standards in Mine Health and Safety and environmental protection.

The programmes comprise both student and staff exchange. During the exchange students from both partner universities usually spend one semester studying at the partner university. Alongside with intercultural experiences, the specific objectives for the students are the enhancement of their professional competence in an international environment and the development of sustainable networks, as well as improvement in their language proficiency and personal competences. During staff exchange, lecturers are invited to both partner universities to give courses with country- and research-specific topics. This means that students not participating in the student exchange also have the opportunity to strengthen their professional knowledge. In addition, lecturers thus have the opportunity to meet in person on a regular basis and discuss potential future activities. An overview of the programmes and key figures are given in Table 1.

Table 1: CUT’s International Study and Apprenticeship Partnerships.

Partner Financial Support Period Main activities
Namibia University of Science and Technology (formerly: Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN)), (Windhoek, Namibia) DAAD, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development 2011–2013 ·  PoN => CUT: 3 students per year


·  CUT => PoN: 3 students per year;

·  10-week lecture per year from CUT => PoN

University of Pretoria, (Pretoria, South Africa) DAAD, Federal Ministry of Education and Research 2012–2016 ·  UoP=> CUT: 7 students in total


·  CUT => UoP: 12 students in total

·  2 visiting lecturers per year

Pontificia Universidad Católica del Peru (Lima, Peru) DAAD, Federal Ministry of Education and Research 2013–2015 ·  PUCP => CUT: 3 students per year


·  CUT => PUCP: 3 students per year;

·  2 visiting lecturers per year

Statements from students studying abroad:

Jason Henriquez, M.Sc. Mining Engineering, spent one semester at the University of Pretoria (UoP) in 2016:

“(…) what I learned with all my experiences in different countries and continents is that living and studying abroad helps me to open my mind to new concepts and cultures, giving me the opportunity to test my perceptions and habits that until then I did not know that I had. This experience of studying abroad for one semester in Africa helped me to understand and absorb different approaches on how to see things and issues and how to solve them in ways that I never thought was possible. Moreover, I think that one of the most important personal developments that a person can have is the enhancement of their soft skills, their social skills, and the only way to improve them is to involve yourself in different social scenarios where you learn to identify, behave and react with the people that surround you, and studying and living abroad in another country and continent gave me a unique opportunity to improve this skill.”

Raoul Schmitt, B.Sc. Energy and Raw Materials, spent one semester at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Peru (PUCP):

“In 2014 the ISAP Programme gave me the opportunity to spend a semester at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP) in Lima. Studying at one of South America’s top universities was a great experience for me, since there is a big number of interesting courses and plenty of cultural activities to choose from. I studied in the mining engineering faculty and really enjoyed the courses I had chosen, not only due to their interesting practical content, but also because of the great support given by the experienced lecturers. Although Spanish as the main teaching language was sometimes challenging, with the help of my fellow students I was able to improve my speaking skills and managed to receive all the credits I needed for my German university. In addition, Peru is a very diverse country, rich in nature and culture and therefore offers exciting opportunities for travelling, apart from university life. I would recommend the ISAP Programme to anyone who is interested in intercultural learning experiences and willing to put some personal effort into expanding one’s horizon.”

5. Summary and Outlook

For securing the supply of raw materials in an efficient, economically feasible, environmentally friendly and socially accepted manner, internationalisation in Mining Engineering higher education is becoming increasingly important. Clausthal University of Technology, with its long term tradition in mining engineering education, is pushing forward with a strategical process of integrating an international and intercultural dimension into teaching, research and service functions. The current article highlights examples of successfully implemented structures and programmes as well as current activities for fostering internationalisation at the Institute of Mining related to academic programmes, research and scholarly work and extra-curricular activities. As internationalisation is a dynamic process, emphasis will be placed on the further enhancement and improvement of existing programmes and activities as well as the development of new innovative approaches.

[1] International in this context means non-European countries or non-EU partner.


Clausen, E. 2015, Measuring the effectivity of a combined teaching and learning approach on the professional performance, acquisition of competences and student`s motivation. In: Mischo, H. and Drebenstedt, C. (Eds.),  Latest Innovations in Mining Education & Research. Proceedings of the 26th Annual General Meeting & Conference of the Society of Mining Professors (SOMP), Freiberg. pp. 43-48.

Knight, J. 1994. Internationalisation: Elements and Checkpoints. Canadian Bureau for International Education, Ottawa.

Knight, J. 1999. Internationalisation of Higher Education. In: Quality and Internationalisation in Higher Education, OECD. pp. 13-23.

This article has been published in European Geologist Journal 42 – International cooperation on raw materials.