This title describes the successful Bielefeld approach with its targeted strengthening of innovative top-level research: applying multiperspective methods and solving problems by transcending boundaries between disciplines, between scientific cultures, between research and teaching, and between science and society. Such processes enable us to not only identify potentials through a culture of openness but also move quickly to promote them.
Bielefeld University was founded in 1969 with an explicit research assignment and a mission to provide high-quality research-oriented teaching. Today it encompasses 13 faculties covering a broad spectrum of disciplines in the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and technology. With about 21,500 students in 105 degree courses and about 2,750 staff members (including 264 professors and lecturers as well as 1,380 academic staff) it is one of Germany's medium-sized universities.
The University's research profile pursues major scientifically and socially relevant themes, focusing primarily on the extremely productive interfaces between disciplines. In teaching as well, Bielefeld University stands out through its specific, transdisciplinary, and highly networked profile.
All major rankings and evaluations confirm that Bielefeld has one of the best and most service-oriented university libraries in Germany.
Only universities which combine strong research and teaching can hope to remain excellent in the long term. Teaching at Bielefeld University - like its research - is characterised by a highly networked interdisciplinary profile: a transparent course structure with great permeability between subjects, flexibility of study combinations, and an elective element in all courses allow students to create an individual profile. Students also have the option of spending a term abroad or focusing at an early stage on research.
In teaching, too, the University has repeatedly made a name for itself through innovative projects (early adoption of Bachelor's and Master's degrees, polyvalent teacher training). We are always working to improve our course structure and organisation, at present in the framework of an externally supported study of the organisation of our study and teaching services. In developing teaching and studies we are guided by the idea of "learning through research", a central aspect of our overall concept: "On the Way towards a New Culture of Teaching and Study" with which Bielefeld University became one of only six German universities successful in the national "Excellence in Teaching" competition in 2009.
In a focused spectrum of interdisciplinary fields in the humanities and social sciences and in the natural sciences and technology, Bielefeld University is one of the strongest research universities in Germany. In the first phase of the Excellence Initiative in 2007 we won funding for the Cognitive Interaction Technology Cluster (CITEC) and the Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology (BGHS).
Our research strength is also reflected in our placings in the DFG funding rankings based on the total 92 universities assessed: based on DFG data Bielefeld University occupies top places for the humanities and social sciences (fifth in the comparison of third-party funding per professorship), the life sciences (fourth place in the comparison of third-party funding per professorship), and engineering with its focus on computer science (third place in the comparison of third-party funding per professorship). In the natural sciences Bielefeld University occupies place 22 (in the comparison of third-party funding per professorship). For mathematics the DFG data do not allow calculation of size-adjusted ranking; in absolute terms the faculty occupies sixth place.
In the 2010-2011 Higher Education Ranking of the prestigious British magazine Times Higher Education, Bielefeld University is the best of all the higher education institutes in North Rhine-Westphalia. Bielefeld is the eighth best university in Germany, holds the 67th place in Europe.
The task of recruiting and promoting young researchers already begins at the stage of Master's degree courses, which are tailored precisely to the interdisciplinary postgraduate programmes and strategic research areas. At the Ph.D. level the University adopted university-wide doctoral degree regulations in 2010; these are designed in particular to ensure consistently high quality and make it easier to organise interdisciplinary doctorates. The University possesses a strong array of Graduate Schools, international and national Research Training Groups, and structured doctoral degree courses. We are pursuing a strategy of establishing broad-based internationally prominent and attractive Graduate Schools in each of our five interdisciplinary strategic research areas. At the central level a broad spectrum of qualification measures for careers in science, business, and society as well as mentoring and coaching programmes - including ones aimed specifically at women and international researchers - complement and expand the research and scientific training in the Graduate Schools. Bielefeld University has recently significantly expanded its support programme for the postdoctoral phase and is increasingly creating junior professorships to allow young researchers to research autonomously. The university-wide doctoral degree regulations explicitly allow not just junior professors, but also - in clearly defined circumstances - other postdoctoral researchers to supervise doctorates.
Gender equality and family-friendly structures are strategic core concerns of the University. Bielefeld was the first university in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia to set up affirmative action plans for women and was one of the first to set up on-site childcare facilities. Since 2006 the University has been certified annually as a family-friendly university (in German). In 2008 we received the Total E-Quality hallmark for exemplary equal opportunities policy and in the same year our equality concept was successful in the female professors' programme sponsored by the Federal Government and the Länder. In 2010 the DFG assessed our ambitious concept for implementing research-oriented equality standards as "exemplary", making Bielefeld one of only twelve (out of 63) universities to be credited with the highest quality level for its equal opportunities engagement. Despite these achievements there is still work to be done: gender equality has not yet been achieved at all levels and it remains an important cross-cutting task for the University.
Building on these outstanding foundations in the field of gender, the University will in future increase the energy it devotes to the issue of diversity. Currently there are different approaches and projects at the levels of ethnic minorities, disability, and age. In the context of its organisational development the University will prepare an overall concept for strategic diversity management.
Bielefeld University offers the best conditions for successfully transferring knowledge and technology: innovative research and academic work on the highest national and international level combined with excellently trained graduates. The top-class cooperations with industry as well as the cooperations with medical institutions within the framework of specialized profiles have already been pointed out (see above). The communication of research findings in publications and at conferences are not the only highly visible and productive signs of an effective transfer. This also involves the research associations and cooperations reaching out to society from the university along with expertises, patents, the licensing and exploitation of research findings, the setting up of companies with close links to the university, the opening up of our large-scale laboratory equipment to outsiders, and so forth.
Bielefeld University possesses its own strategy for internal knowledge and technology transfer as well as effective instruments and partnerships to help accelerate transfer. These include the university's own Department for Research Administration and Technology Transfer as well as its own Zentrum für Unternehmensgründung [Centre for setting up businesses (in German)]. These are joined by the Absolventennetzwerk e.V. [alumni association (in German)], the Programm Studierende und Wirtschaft [Students and Commerce and Industry (in German)], the cooperation platform Bielefeld 2000 plus (in German), the Zentrum und der Verein Wissenschaftliche Weiterbildung [Centre for Continuing Higher Education (in German)], the Gesellschaft für Forschung und Technologie e.V. [Society for research and technology], and the Institute for Innovation Transfer at Bielefeld University (IIT), along with the University Outpatient Centre for Children and Adolescents (in German) and the Psychotherapeutic Outpatient Centre (in German).
Bielefeld University is located in a middle-sized city (population 320,000) largely characterised by medium-sized, family-run businesses. The University is well-connected within the city and region, which has often been helpful in arranging attractive dual-career packages. The University maintains close relationships with local, often underestimated, "hidden champions" including the globally operating companies of Bertelsmann, Miele, and Schüco International, and the von Bodelschwingh Foundation, one of the largest health care centres in Europe specialised in assistance to disabled people.
In research Bielefeld University is internationally outstandingly networked, as recently confirmed by an internationalisation audit conducted by the German Rectors' Conference (HRK - Hochschulrektorenkonferenz), and hosts numerous projects under the EU's Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development. Young researchers are recruited internationally for all Research Training Groups and Graduate Schools; three of the DFG Research Training Groups are based on partnerships with universities abroad. Mathematics at Bielefeld is especially attractive for international top researchers and occupies one of the top places for Alexander von Humboldt scholarships. The virtual faculty of the CITEC Cluster of Excellence has a model function for the University, coopting renowned international researchers to hold lectures in Bielefeld, conduct research seminars, or act as referees and reviewers.