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Strong data, big challenges

Rector Hans-Jochen Schiewer presents the University of Freiburg’s current developments in the 2016-17 annual report.

Freiburg, Dec 11, 2017

Strong data, big challenges

Rektor Hans-Jochen Schiewer. Photo: Silvia Wolf

Third-party funding, awards, patents, publications: The University of Freiburg’s performance data have never been as good as they are in 2017. The data have further improved and reflect success in the race for research funding.  At the same time the university is consistently and constructively tackling challenges. These include the introduction of tuition fees for non-EU students and the major problem of renovations across the whole campus, particularly in the center of Freiburg. This is the state of affairs presented by the rector, Professor Hans-Jochen Schiewer, in his annual report for the period 1 October 2016 to 30 September 2017.

Two competitive funding programs made their particular mark on the past academic year - the German federal and state governments’ program for the promotion of junior researchers and the Excellence Strategy, which was decided in the early stages of the Excellence Cluster funding line. The junior researchers program saw twelve tenure track professorships obtained - a success which confirms the university’s academic staff development concept, Schiewer says: “We create the best possible conditions for the qualification phase and the particular promotion of outstanding young researchers in their careers; we develop university career paths consistently, also considering permanent positions outside of professorships; and we promote professional skills to best prepare those who will continue their careers outside of academia.” In the Excellence Strategy, Freiburg has advanced two cluster initiatives. Both the Centre for Integrative Biological Signalling Studies (CIBBS) and Living, Adaptive and Energy-autonomous Materials Systems (livMatS) have been called upon to submit full proposals. Schiewer praises them as two are strong research areas at the University. He adds that it is disappointing that the initiative based on the Excellence Cluster BrainLinks–BrainTools has been knocked out of the running. “BrainLinks–BrainTools was successful in the 2012 Excellence Initiative and has done outstanding work in recent years,” Schiewer stresses. “The interdisciplinary research into the brain-machine interface is and will remain a central profile area, and BrainLinks-BrainTools an Excellence Cluster at our university. Permanent funding is guaranteed.”

Further challenges were most recently the introduction of tuition fees for non-EU students; at the University of Freiburg, new enrollments by this group fell by some 15 percent in winter semester 2017-18 year-on-year; but the total number of non-EU students has risen. The budgetary situation is also a challenge: “Higher building maintenance costs, and rents and retrofitting costs due to renovations and fire safety measures which became necessary at short notice have made further spending cuts necessary, against a backdrop of continuing inadequate basic funding.”

Despite the often difficult circumstances, the university has had some game-changing successes. A central building block for future development is Eucor - The European Campus, the alliance of universities on the Upper Rhine, which has defined four core research areas: Quantum physics and quantum technologies, precision medicine, sustainability sciences, and cultural studies. The Georg H. Endress foundation supports Quantum Science and Quantum Computing, a joint project of the Universities of Basel and Freiburg with up to ten million Swiss francs over ten years. Additionally, the European Campus has used its seed capital to launch its first funding instrument, aimed at promoting cross-border projects in research and teaching. “The European Campus is a model for the future for all of Europe - we can see that in the overwhelming interest shown in it by policymakers and academics,” Schiewer says.

The Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) has continued with it positive development as a trademark of the university: Working with the Arnold Bergstraesser Institute and other partner institutions, it has gained approval for the founding of the Merian International Centre for Advanced Studies in Africa – and total funding of 18 million euros for the expected funding period of twelve years. The core goal is to establish and Institute for Advanced Studies in sustainable governance at the University of Accra, Legon, Ghana. Technology transfer and startup culture provided another example of the successes of the past academic year: The startup register, Gründungsradar 2016, and the Thomson-Reuters Innovation Ranking 2017 show that Freiburg is among the leaders in this area in Germany and is the leader in Baden-Württemberg. “We will continue to build on this strong profile and support the Faculty of Engineering by establishing an innovation center on campus.”


Rector’s annual report