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Expanding the University System (September 3, 1966)

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Only Three Departments
The university is supposed to spring up gradually around this center. The first office planned for this center is the seat of the university administration, which will be presided over by the current chancellor of the University of Bonn, Freiherr von Medem. This center will also house the construction planning offices and the first institutes, which will form the nuclei of the new university. Unlike universities to date, the University of Bielefeld will only have three departments [Fakultäten]: law and political science, philosophy, and the natural sciences.

From the very start, there will be a numerus clausus, that is, a cap on the number of students admitted, so that the student-professor ratio will be 30:1 and real contact between faculty and students will be guaranteed. Provisions have been made for 150 professorships, which means that, according to the planners’ conception, the university will be able to admit 4,500 students. Some who are familiar with the situation, however, doubt whether holding to these numbers is realistic. As in Bochum, most of the students in Bielefeld will come from the surrounding areas.

The founders’ committee, under the chairmanship of Professor Mikat, is planning a whole host of further reforms in order to make the university truly unique. For example, professors here are supposed to devote significantly more time to research than elsewhere – with research and teaching alternating on an annual basis. Extreme specialization is supposed to be balanced by a “Center for Interdisciplinary Research.” This is where joint research projects are supposed to be undertaken.

By limiting the duration of these research projects, the planners hope to prevent them from becoming institutionalized, which would again create “permanent specialists” in some intermediary subject area. After collaborating on interdisciplinary research for a period of time, scholars are supposed to return to their respective departments at the project’s end, perhaps to come together with other colleagues for another special project at a later date.

Lectures will also depart from the standard conventions at traditional universities. Material that students can learn on their own by reading should not be read to them by the professor as well. Instead of reciting from one’s own or other people’s books (which is often done), the professor is supposed to focus on subject matter that is best conveyed verbally. In the mind of the university planners, this will not only optimize the professors’ time but will also intensify and concentrate students’ course of study. The basic undergraduate courses [Grundstudium], covering clearly defined subject matter, will be completed in four to five semesters.

The construction of the university is supposed to be completed in 1971. By then, the cost of construction and setting up the institutes will have reached at least one billion Marks, according to conservative estimates. But for now, the cows are still grazing on the future campus.

Source: Wolfgang Kuballa, “Wo heute noch die Kühe weiden ... ” [“Where the Cows are still out to Pasture … ”], Süddeutsche Zeitung, September 3, 1966.

Translation: Allison Brown

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