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Congratulations, retrospectives, perspectives – symposium on the occasion of University of Siegen's 40th anniversary

(15 June 2012) Precise and overarching insights into the development of the concept of a comprehensive university and the history of University of Siegen as a former comprehensive university: The symposium on the occasion of University of Siegen's 40th anniversary outlined the conditions prevailing when it was established, now documented by a movie and a book featuring interviews with contemporary witnesses.

"I cannot tell whether University of Siegen has now, after 40 years, reached the age of wisdom," said Rector Holger Burckhart in his greeting to some 400 guests at the symposium held on the occasion of the University's 40th anniversary. "In the best case, institutions can provide the prerequisites for wisdom." He used three examples to point out that many of the original aims of establishing a comprehensive university are still relevant and still present a challenge. These include inclusion to ensure participation in society, the increasing integration of education into society and the growing insight that universities should not focus on training elites but must support individual educational achievement.

A native of Siegen and an alumnus of University of Siegen, Johannes Remmel, North Rhine-Westphalia's Minister for Climate Protection, Environment, Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Consumer Protection, conveyed the congratulations of the federal state government. Having a university nearby and enjoying a high degree of student representation have been critical to shaping his professional and personal life. He considers the university a "sustainability laboratory" and believes it should constantly ask itself, "In what society do we want to live in future?" This, however, requires that students find conditions where they have enough time, space and creativity to dedicate to their studies. This also includes an effort by the federal state government.

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Artur Woll, the first rector of the university, provided in-depth insights into the political and social conditions of this "hectic move" when five comprehensive universities were established simultaneously in North Rhine-Westphalia. He recalled not only his appointment but also the issues involved with the development of Siegen's university, including the personnel structure. "The meaning of comprehensive universities is about shaping new study programmes, and the concept of this 'Y' model continues," said the former rector. He also mentioned that Siegen was the first North Rhine-Westphalian comprehensive university to be admitted by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, proof of the excellent research results already achieved at Siegen at that time.

With her celebratory speech on "Comprehensive University of Siegen – Reform as a Process," Prof. Dr. Aylâ Neusel underpinned the statements by Prof. Woll. Furthermore, as a university researcher and former vice president of University of Kassel, which was founded as a comprehensive university one year before the North Rhine-Westphalian universities, she demonstrated why the original goals still hold true today and can be considered predecessors of the Bologna Process, e.g., with staggered study programmes, a reduction in the difference between applied science universities and other universities and the link between theory and practice.

At the end of a detailed reflection of university policy and history, the protagonists of "day one" expressed themselves in a film. Prof. Dr. Sabine Hering, long-standing professor for educational science and prorector at University of Siegen, conducted in-depth interviews with politicians, members of the founding senate, former chancellors and rectors as well as former members of the student representative body (AStA) and graduates. The film, called "The Foundation and the Founders: Looking Back on the Beginnings of University of Siegen 1972 – 1980" was also presented in the Festschrift.
The book can be purchased for EUR 19.90 from the University of Siegen publishing house.
Symposium image gallery.