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Longtime Director of Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS), Bernd Kortmann, Hands Over Office

New director of international research college is archaeologist Ralf von den Hoff

Freiburg, Oct 12, 2022

The Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) of the University of Freiburg has a new board of directors as of 1 October 2022. Executive Director Prof. Dr. Bernd Kortmann, professor of English linguistics, handed over the office he had held since 2013 to Prof. Dr. Ralf von den Hoff, professor of classical archaeology at the University of Freiburg.

“FRIAS built up an excellent reputation for itself in the phase between its founding in 2008 and 2013, advancing to become an internationally known calling card for the University of Freiburg,” says Prof. Dr. Kerstin Krieglstein, rector of the University of Freiburg. “Bernd Kortmann succeeded in securing the continued existence of the institute with the support of the other members of the board of directors and the FRIAS team, with commitment, inventiveness, and persistence. Today FRIAS is firmly integrated into the University of Freiburg and an essential part of its profile. The Rectorate and the entire university thank him for that, and we are at the same time looking forward to the directorship of Ralf von den Hoff and the future joint developments.”

Sustainable Structures

“The early days of my term were marked by great uncertainty,” remembers Kortmann, “because FRIAS had to completely reinvent itself on the basis of the successful elements of the first years.” With a concept for a new orientation of FRIAS, the institute was transferred to the core funding of the University of Freiburg starting in 2020, following a joint decision by the Ministry of Science, Research, and the Arts (MWK) and the Ministry of Finance of the State of Baden-Württemberg. “That opened up and is still opening up the possibility to plan for the long term,” explains Kortmann. The profile of FRIAS is characterized among other things by its successful application to the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for the Merian Institute for Advanced Studies in Africa (MIASA) in 2018 and, more recently, by the establishment of the Young Academy for Sustainability Research (YAS) with funding from the Eva Mayr-Stihl Foundation. This allows the institute to reliably attract top international researchers to the University of Freiburg as fellows and guests.

In addition, the board of directors established the institution of interdisciplinary research groups (Saltus! groups, also funded by the Eva Mayr-Stihl Foundation) and the Freiburg Research Collaboration Program (FRESCO). A funding instrument that has proven to be particularly successful is research foci and project groups, which have been competitively tendered on a regular basis since 2014. They promote research initiatives at a very early stage, creating a basis for successful third-party funding applications to external sponsors.

Opening Up to Society

Besides promoting top international research and interdisciplinarity, FRIAS set itself the goal in realigning its concept under Kortmann of reaching a larger audience within the university as well as in the greater community. In addition to the continuation of the Freiburg Staudinger Lecture Series, which has brought 29 Nobel laureates to Freiburg as guests, a new format was established for this purpose: Freiburg Horizons. “With this format, we have succeeded in initiating a dialogue between actors from politics, academia, business, and society,” says Kortmann. One of the highlights of this series was certainly the multi-day event “Heidegger’s Black Notebooks” in the fall of 2015, which attracted more than 900 visitors for some of the talks and received widespread media coverage. Another was the speech by Baden-Württemberg’s Minister-President Winfried Kretschmann in November 2018 on the topic “What Science Does Society Need?” “These events, which are open to the public, underscore the fact that FRIAS has become an integral part of the university and the city of Freiburg,” explains Krieglstein.

The New Board of Directors

Kortmann’s term of office also coincided with the end of those of the two part-time board members Prof. Dr. Annegret Wilde as director for natural sciences and Prof. Dr. Günther Schulze as director for social sciences. The newly elected members of the board of directors are the Freiburg biologist Prof. Dr. Barbara Di Ventura for the area of natural sciences and the Freiburg historian and science studies scholar Prof. Dr. Veronika Lipphardt for the area of humanities.

More information on the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS)

The Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies is the international research college of the University of Freiburg. As an integral part of the university, the institute unites under its roof the humanities and the social sciences, medicine, the natural and life sciences, and engineering. The institute was established in the context of the Excellence Initiative of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the German Research Foundation (DFG) and opened in 2008. FRIAS is considered a model by many research universities worldwide that want to open their own international research college and is therefore visited by delegations and consulted during start-up phases.


Annette Kollefrath-Persch
Office of University and Science Communications
University of Freiburg
Phone: +49 (0)761 203 8909