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  • History of Bielefeld University

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Bielefeld University Archive
Morgenbreede 39
D-33615 Bielefeld
Phone.: (0521) 106-4009/-4024
Fax: (0521) 106-2964
Room: BVH H01-031/H01-032

Further information on the history of Bielefeld University is available on the Internet pages of the University Archive: University Archive


After less than four years of planning, Bielefeld University opened its doors. It was built as a "Reformuniversität" (Reform University), a concept developed by Helmut Schelsky, an educational sociologist from Münster, who was instrumental in its foundation. With far reaching aims to reform nearly every area of higher education, the University made a valuable contribution to educational reform in Germany in the second half of the 20th century. Despite having to revise some of its original aims in the period that followed due to deteriorating financial and economic conditions, the University upholds its interdisciplinary, innovative and reformative character to this day.

  • The founding committee
    Foto: Freie Presse/Stadtarchiv und Landesgeschichtliche Bibliothek Bielefeld.
    13.06.1966: After the government of North Rhine-Westphalia decided in favour of Bielefeld as a location, the founding committee of the "University in East Westphalia" met on 13 June 1966 with representatives of the city and district of Bielefeld at Bielefeld's Sparrenburg.
  • Visit of the University campus where the building was going to be built
    Foto: G. Rudolf/Universitätsarchiv
    13.03.1967: Eberhard Freiherr von Medem (commissioner for the construction of administrative buildings of the University), Fritz Holthoff (Minister of Culture), Herbert Hinnendahl (Mayor), Helmut Schelsky and ministerial director Fridolin Hallauer (from left) visit the University campus on 13 March 1967. In the background is the Voltsmannhof, today a guest house and meeting space for international guests of the University.
  • Heinz Kühn speaking into several micropohones
    Foto: G. Rudolf/Universitätsarchiv
    21.06.1968: Heinz Kühn, head of the North Rhine-Westphalian government, lays the foundation stone for the Development and Provisions Centre (Aufbau- und Verfügungszentrum) of Bielefeld University on 21 June 1968.
  • Niklas Luhmann, Helmut Schelsky and Dietrich Storbeck
    Foto: B. Preker/Universitätsarchiv
    17.11.1969: Bielefeld University was not founded through an official ceremony, but by the commencement of teaching on 17 November 1969. Sociologists Niklas Luhmann, the first professor at the University, Helmut Schelsky and Dietrich Storbeck (from left) at the faculty conference that took place on this day.
  • Construction works for the Main University Building
    Foto: Universitätsarchiv
    1972: Construction site of the Main University Building at the beginning of the 1970s. After the completion of the Munich Olympic stadium, this was one of the biggest building sites in Germany.
  • The Main Building
    Foto: Universitätsarchiv
    19.02.1975: View of the Main University Building, as seen in the direction of the city centre, shortly before construction was completed on 19 February 1975.
  • People at a demonstration
    Foto: keine Angabe
    08.06.1982: On 8 June 1982, 7000 students, professors and staff demonstrated against the planned cuts to training and staff positions, research groups and posts for young researchers. In the first row of protestors are the members of the University's leadership with Vice-Rector Thomas Dorfmüller, Rektor Karl Peter Grotemeyer, Vice-Rector Dietrich Storbeck and Chancellor Eberhard Firnhaber (from left).
  • Four former rectors of Bielefeld University
    Foto: Andreas Frücht
    Oktober 2002: On the occasion of his 75th birthday in early October 2002, Karl Peter Grotemeyer (Rektor from 1970-1992) welcomed his three successors in office (from left): Helmut Skowronek (1992 to 1996), Dieter Timmermann (2001 to 2009), Karl Peter Grotemeyer and Gert Rickheit (1996 to 2001).
  • Central hall of the Main University Building
    Foto: Pressestelle der Universität Bielefeld
    08.09.2003: The central hall of the Main University Building, meeting and marketplace of the University, in September 2003.
  • Hans-Ulrich Wehler
    Foto: Pressestelle der Universität Bielefeld
    15.07.2004: On 15 July 2004, Bielefeld University confers the title of Honorary Senator on the renowned historian Hans-Ulrich Wehler (1931-2014). Wehler, the main proponent of the "Bielefeld School" of social history and author of a five-volume "Deutsche Gesellschaftsgeschichte" (a history of German society and standard reference in the discipline), taught at Bielefeld University from 1971 to 1996.
  • Students and guests celebrating at the university-wide graduate day
    Foto: Universität Bielefeld
    07.12.2012: Bielefeld University organised its first university-wide graduate day on 7 December 2012. Over 3000 students and guests celebrated their graduation in a festive setting.

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