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Excellence and Europe

Hans-Jochen Schiewer opens the 2017/2018 academic year with a future-oriented vision for the University of Freiburg

Freiburg, Oct 18, 2017

Excellence and Europe

Rector Hans-Jochen Schiewer opens the 2017/2018 academic year. Photo: Patrick Seeger

External funding, awards, patents, international publications: The University of Freiburg had extraordinary achievements last year. But the contestants in the running competition for excellence are tough. In Baden-Württemberg alone seven universities are currently in the running for the funding line “Universities of Excellence” – because, after the preliminary round from September 2017 for the funding line “Cluster of Excellence”, still have a chance for at least two successful applications. Those who wish to be named a university of excellence have to provide convincing concepts about funding top research. But what is it that makes the University of Freiburg so special, so strong? In his opening address for the 2017/2018 academic year, Rector Prof. Dr. Hans-Jochen Schiewer provided the answer with his future-oriented vision for the University of Freiburg: “It is about nothing less than taking the centuries-old idea of a European university and spelling it out with 21st century conditions in mind.”

Schiewer quoted French president Emmanuel Macron who introduced his vision for Europe in a keynote speech at the end of September 2017 – among other things bound to the goal of creating 20 European universities with European degrees by 2024. “We are on our way already with Eucor – The European Campus,” emphasized Schiewer. “This visionary cross-border network is already a part of our future vision, our trademark: trinational, European, global.” The Universities of Freiburg, Basel, Mulhouse, Strasbourg and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology already founded the European Campus in 2016. As a European consortium for territorial cooperation (EVTZ), they are already a European legal entity, headquartered in Freiburg. 115,000 students, 15,000 researchers, 11,000 PhD students, more than 35,000 staff members and an overall budget of 2.3 billion euros: “With this potential, we are creating not only something new, but also something of more value for everyone involved,” said Schiewer. “We have to hedge our bets on these cards, the European cards: We are a European legal entity. We have mutual governance. We already have mutual research funding – and we can show that the idea of a European university is a successful one.”

In the funding line “Cluster of Excellence”, two initiatives at the University of Freiburg are in the competition: CIBSS – Centre for Integrative Biological Signalling Studies and Living, Adaptive and Energy-autonomous Materials Systems (livMatS). “Two profile sectors at the University of Freiburg have remained in the running with the life and material sciences, in which top research is being demonstrably conducted,” said Schiewer. “I’d like to take a moment to once again congratulate the colleagues of both initiatives for their exceptional achievement that has received well-deserved recognition in the first decision in the competition of excellence.” 

Award winners:

This year the University of Freiburg is awarding 54 advancement awards for a total of 110,900 euros to the best young scientists. 28 awards go to young male researchers, 26 to young female researchers. Private individuals and institutions from the University have already made more than two million euros in advancement awards for young talent available since 1989. The awards are given based on recommendations from the respective faculty for exceptional research work.

Brochure with all award winners (pdf)

For the past 20 years, the Booster Association Alumni Freiburg e.V. has collected donations for student projects from former students at the Unviersity of Freiburg. This year it will give the annual “Alumni Prize for social engagement” for the sixth consecutive year. The Alumni Freiburg seeks to encourage students and to support them in their efforts to help society while pursuing their degrees. The award winners for 2017 are two student initiatives that will share the 2,000 euro prize money:

  • Shahrzad Mohammadi is an advocate for women and girl refugees. At “Bike Bridge“ these women learn how to ride a bike. The project’s goal is to combat women refugees’ social isolation. In 2016 the project started its pilot phase in Freiburg’s largest refugee housing in the Bissierstraße. With theoretical and practical bike training as well as tours and excursions, “Bike Bridge” promotes the participants’ mobility as well as their social and cultural integration. Every woman receives a tandem partner at her side. The women also learn how to repair the bike and they get language instruction. At the end of the three-month course they are allowed to keep the bike. Bike riding allows them to discover the city and their new surroundings, come into contact with their host society, and learn more about the cultures and traditions of their host country.

  • Philipp Müller supports school children with his project “Duwa Lofunga“. He has worked for years as a volunteer in hospitals in Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries. In the schools there children often sit tightly on the floor in classes with between 150 and 200 students. Their presence is not checked. Oftentimes the teachers don’t even show up to class because the state does not pay them regularly. In order to give the children a way out and a chance, Müller founded the scholarship “Duwa Lofunga“ in 2011. Gifted children from multiple villages in this region receive support for three years to attend private, mostly church-run schools. The higher educational standards allow the children a path to vocational training. “Duwa Lofunga“ now supports 16 scholarship recipients – additional ones should follow.

In addition, the ceremonial event included other awards: The University Teaching Award 2017 for excellent teaching to Dr. Anna Rosen, a research associate at the Department of English and Prof. Dr. Tim Krieger, head of the Wilfried Guth Endowed Chair for Constitutional Political Economy and Competition Policy. Each award includes 5,000 euros in prize money. The Special Award for Student Involvement, which includes 500 euros, went to Alexandra Haag, student of human medicine.

Press release about the University Teaching Award and the Special Award for Student Involvement