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A Year of Contradictions

In his review of 2018-19, the Rector Hans-Jochen Schiewer finds a mixed picture

Freiburg, Dec 17, 2019

A Year of Contradictions

Rektor Hans-Jochen Schiewer. Photo: Jürgen Gocke

The 2018-19 academic year was a year of contradictions for the University of Freiburg: this is the conclusion of the Rector Prof. Dr. Hans-Jochen Schiewer in his annual review, which he presented at a joint meeting of the Senate and the University Council. “The University of Freiburg has had to take a hard decision with regard to its Excellence Strategy. Nevertheless, its strong performance as a result of the commitment and passion of our academics, our students and our staff continues unabated,” says Schiewer. “We will build on this in the coming academic year, in order to continue to develop our university successfully.”

The University of Freiburg can look back on many successes in the past months. The two new Clusters of Excellence CIBSS – Centre for Integrative Biological Signalling Studies, and livMatS – Living, Adaptive and Energy-autonomous Materials Systems have started work. The European Partnership for an Innovative Campus Unifying Regions (EPICUR) consortium was successful in the European Universities Initiative of the European Commission. The neuropathologist Prof. Dr. Marco Prinz is the first Freiburg scientist in ten years to receive a Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, the most important research award in Germany. Every significant national and international ranking continues to include the University of Freiburg in the top ten universities nationally. However, its application for the Universities of Excellence funding line was unsuccessful. The university has already drawn important conclusions from this, says Schiewer, “We have to refine our strategies further, especially with regard to internationalization and in the profile field of environment and sustainability. And we need to be even more successful in winning Clusters of Excellence.”

At the same time, the Rector emphasizes aspects in which the university did well in the Excellence Competition: young scientists as the driving force in research; the focus on innovation and disruption, that is, on entirely new, ground-breaking approaches to research; the international research college Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS); Eucor – The European Campus as a successful model for the concept of a European University; the cooperations with the Max Planck and Fraunhofer societies; the Liberal Arts and Sciences Education with which the University of Freiburg takes the lead nationally. These strengths need to be maintained and built on. “The underlying concept of our application remains our guiding principle,” Schiewer summarizes, “We want to further strengthen the culture of creativity and openness from all kinds of status groups at the university.”

So in keeping with the theme “Connecting Creative Minds” the university wants to continue to promote institutional renewal and break down the classical barriers and hierarchies. It has for instance launched a major initiative entitled “Connected Services”, with the aim of modernizing administration and digitizing processes. “We’ve set course now: towards more efficient processes, better communication, stronger engagement, more leeway for creativity and more effective support for work on the university’s core tasks of research, teaching and knowledge transfer.” The goal of this institutional renewal is for all members of the university to be able to make full use of their creative potential: “Outstanding teachers, cutting-edge research and a long-term structural change will only succeed if everyone at the university is involved and engaged.”


The Rector’s Annual Review (pdf, in German)