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Connecting Creative Minds – Trinational, European, Global

To mark the start of the 2018/19 academic year, Rector Hans-Jochen Schiewer introduces the motto for the strategic development of the University of Freiburg

Freiburg, Oct 17, 2018

Connecting Creative Minds – Trinational, European, Global

Rector Hans-Jochen Schiewer. Photo: Patrick Seeger

Connecting Creative Minds – Trinational, European, Global: this is the motto for the strategic development of the University of Freiburg – and it also sums up the proposal that the university will be submitting for the Universities of Excellence funding line of the Excellence Competition in December 2018. “It’s my ambition to use this strategy to rethink the university, its structures and more or less immutable laws. The question is how we work together in future, how we communicate, what spaces we want to create for an exchange of ideas that transcends all disciplinary, status and regional borders, to maximize the creative potential of the university,” emphasized Rector Prof. Dr. Hans-Jochen Schiewer at the start of the 2018/19 academic year. “Connecting Creative Minds helps us not only to pursue the essential goals of the Excellence Competition, that is, internationally competitive cutting-edge research and the capacity for the institution to renew itself. We are, in fact, writing a success story for universities in general and the University of Freiburg in particular under the conditions of the 21st century.”

The Creative Minds are all the members of the University: students, academics, staff. “Promoting their creativity as well as their networking opportunities and scope is one of the central aims of the strategy,” said Schiewer, going on to name the others: firstly, the university wants to strengthen and develop its research profile. In September 2018 two of its profile fields, Biological Signalling Studies and Bioinspired Materials Research received a significant boost: from 1st January 2019 the new Clusters of Excellence CIBSS – Centre for Integrative Biological Signalling Studies and livMatS – Living, Adaptive and Energy-autonomous Materials Systems will commence work. Secondly, together with its partners in the Upper Rhine region, the university wants to continue to develop EUCOR – The European Campus into a European university. As the sole European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGCT), it will be participating in the upcoming competition of the European Commission to establish the first pilots for European universities, which are due to commence as soon as 2019.  

However, before that the University of Freiburg is concerned with submitting its proposal for the Universities of Excellence funding line. It has already presented the relevant performance data: it has been in the Top Ten German universities in all the important rankings and nationally among the five or six best non-specialized universities for years. Above all it is at the forefront of the development of new talent, emphasizes Schiewer, referring to the success of young researchers in obtaining starting grants from the European Research Council, the Emmy Noether and Heisenberg programs of the German Research Foundation (DFG) and others, “For scientists at the start of their career especially, Freiburg is the place to be.”

Following the approval of the two Clusters, it is hoped that this outstanding starting position will be reflected in further success in the Excellence Competition. “We must now make a united appearance as a university that stands together with conviction behind its strategy,” stressed Schiewer. “If we want to achieve greater quality in teaching, if we want our cutting-edge research to lead the international competition, if we want to turn research into innovation, then we must win this competition.”


The Prize-winners: 

This year the University of Freiburg conferred 57 incentive awards totaling 109,950 euros on its best new academic talent. Young male researchers took 33 prizes, young female researchers took 24. Since 1989 private individuals and institutions have provided the university with more than two million euros for new talent awards. The faculties propose research work that they believe is outstanding for the awards.

Brochure with all award winners

The Alumni Freiburg e.V. association has raised funding for student projects from former students of the University of Freiburg for around 20 years. This year it is awarding the annual Alumni Award for social commitment for the seventh time. Alumni Freiburg hopes the award will encourage students and help them to support the community while they are studying. The 2018 prize-winners are two student initiatives that share the prize money of 2,000 euros:

  • The Rock your Life! Freiburg association trains University of Freiburg and University of Education students as mentors, who then volunteer to guide general secondary school pupils from disadvantaged social, economic or family backgrounds in tandems on their way into working life or into higher schooling. The goal of the two-year mentoring relationships is to support the school pupils to develop their potential and expand their horizons. Currently the 130 members of the association are running 40 tandems at three Freiburg schools. The association also organizes regular events for all participating school pupils and mentors, including a winter festival and a summer festival.


  • The Refugee Law Clinic Freiburg is a student-run association that provides free legal advice to refugees in the Freiburg region. Uprooted by their escape, in a strange country, they are entirely dependent on government agencies, and to begin with have to find their way through the system on their own. In this situation, the students advise their clients on how to deal with the authorities and on legal matters. All the voluntary helpers first receive one semester training. Regular supervision meetings between lawyers specializing in migration law and the students help to maintain the expert care and quality of the advice. The work of the Refugee Law Clinic Freiburg tackles an urgent issue and at the same time opens up opportunities for the students to become personally involved and acquire practical legal advice skills.


Other prizes were also awarded at the ceremony: The University is giving the 2018 University Teaching Award for outstanding teaching achievements to Dr. Sarah May, research assistant at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology, as well as to Dr. Götz Fabry and Ariane Zeuner from the Institute of Medical Psychology and Sociology. Each award brings with it 5,000 euros. The Special Award for outstanding student commitment goes to Andreas Hanka. As a student of teaching he is receiving the award, which is endowed with 500 euros, for his contribution to issues affecting students with disabilities or chronic diseases.

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