Interdisciplinary, innovative, international – The University of Wuppertal on its way
The University of Wuppertal over the rooftops of the city.
1. Universities in competition for a higher profile
Today, universities are competing in many respects. They compete with other educational institutions for good students, for funds for research and teaching as well as for strong partners in economy and society. Against this background it is much more important now than in the past to remain attractive to the mentioned target groups. However, who wants to be attractive, must deal with his appearance. This includes asking where the strengths of the own offer lie, what weaknesses might interfere and which development paths perspectively need to be aimed at respectively where scarce resources of intangible and tangible nature should be invested in.
Lecture in the department of Economics at BUW.
Also, the University of Wuppertal is facing up to these challenges. For this purpose, almost a year ago the process to formulate a new vision was started in order to raise the internal and external perception of the university as a research and educational organization and to formulate a strong profile for the future. Initially, it was necessary to highlight the history of the institution, which was founded in the 70s as a polytechnic and later turned into a university, and to analyze its specific range of disciplines and competence as well as its internal structure in science and management. Furthermore, the stock of international, national and regional co-operation in the areas of research, teaching and transfer needed to be taken. The potentials and future opportunities revealed by this analysis were ultimately central to the formulation of the new model, which constitutes a bridge between the past and the future of the university. The following two sections outline some key aspects of this model.
2. How the University of Wuppertalsees itself
Centrally located in the self-confidence of the University is its role as a modern, independent university in the educational tradition of Humboldt. As such it is committed to search for the truth in all academic subject areas from a point of social responsibility. For the University of Wuppertal, the pursuit for international visibility and networking on the one hand, and the regional anchoring and co-operation on the other, do not contradict each other. Rather they are both understood as two sides of a coin. While working nationally and internationally in different fields in cutting-edge research, at the same time in the field of training and transfer, in particular, the University acts in the awareness of its regional reference. In doing so, it trains students in a highly qualified way for their future roles in the democratic society, science and various professional fields.
The research and teaching profile of the University is characterized by interdisciplinarity and innovative ability and takes up future education and knowledge requirements as well as research issues. Increased activities, which aim to further national and international networking, go hand in hand with the steady expansion of scientific excellence, which is based on the following outlined strategic priorities. This is based on the conviction that international exchange, transnational research co-operation and inter-cultural competence gain increasing relevance in the course of the ongoing globalization.
3. These are the strategic priorities pursued
The emergence of specific profiles of research and teaching of the University primarily serves to bring together existing strengths, to develop additional synergies, and – as already indicated above – to improve the external visibility of its potential and services. The following strategic priorities are cross-disciplinary objectives:
(a) Building blocks of matter, experiment, simulation and mathematical methods
This focal point links basic research in the field of science and mathematics with research focuses in experimental and theoretical particle physics, scientific computing, and representation theory. Of important research interest are the elementary particles of matter and the forces acting between them. The corresponding experimental work ranges from participation in major international experiments in particle acceleration to astrophysical observatories.
Apart from theory and experiment, also numerical simulation and super-computing are carried out. These activities are interdisciplinary and structurally particularly closely interwoven with the international community. The “Interdisciplinary Center for Applied Informatics and Scientific Computing” (IZ II) forms an interface between the disciplines involved.
(b) Education and knowledge in social and cultural contexts
The second focal point deals with education and knowledge as crucial social categories. Being aware that all thinking, acting and deciding is made within social and cultural contexts, various sciences are researching the shaping of educational processes and the relationship between education and knowledge in the past and present.
In doing so, the conditions and possibilities of education are analyzed in detail, whereby formal, institutionally-linked forms as well as everyday aspects of life and cultural practices are taken into consideration. Thereby, the existing contributions from humanities and cultural sciences as well as social sciences and education studies offer an excellent potential for joint research projects. This transdisciplinarity allows the connection of different methodological approaches and is not least part of the foundations of an excellent teacher training.
Research centre for performance diagnostics and training advice.
(c) Health, prevention and exercise
As a societal factor, prevention and exercise, which are the basic elements of keeping healthy, and their impact on the ability of workers to perform, become more and more important. Health is no longer just a domain of medicine, but is regarded as an interdisciplinary phenomenon in science and practice. There are many subjects at the University of Wuppertal that study this issue from different perspectives. These include contributions from health psychology, pedagogical concepts of health education, approaches of sports education and medicine, kinesiology, psychology, safety engineering, health economics, as well as special law. The aim of the focus is to merge more and more such contributions into interdisciplinary research projects. In this sense the “Bergische Kompetenzzentrum für Gesundheitsmanagement und Public Health” (Bergisch Competence Centre for Health Management and Public Health) plays a particular role.
Theory and practice, knowledge and application.
d) Language, narration and editing
Narration and narrative are not specific to literature, but also represent – in the living world – a ubiquitous mode of conception, structuring, interpretation and communication of real or imaginary experiences, of knowledge, ideas and intentions.
A focus of the humanities and cultural sciences research, which is institutionalized in the “Zentrum für Erzählforschung” (ZEF – centre for narrative research) at the University, accommodates the general importance of the cultural form of action “narration” in a special way.
It examines both the structural and the contextual aspects of narration in the research fields of “historical development of literary narration”, “non-literary spoken narration” and “inter-media aspects of narration.”
(e) Environment, engineering and safety
This focus combines interdisciplinary research on the subjects of “environmental systems” and economic, ecological and social “sustainability”. Science and engineering disciplines bring input, as well as parts of social sciences and economics, also in co-operation with the “Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie” (Wuppertal institute for climate, environment and energy – WI). The entire chain of production of knowledge, from basic research to the development of application-oriented products and high-tech procedures, is served in co-operation with the industry. Environmental research, engineering and security strategies are aimed at improving the understanding of complex correlations in ecological and technological systems and at enhancing technological innovations. In regard to the application, the main question is how future needs of consumers and producers as well as the challenges of environmental protection and globalization can be met in changing environmental conditions and availability of resources.
BUW campus on the Grifflenberg.
(f) Entrepreneurship, innovation and economic change
The final focus is the interdisciplinary exploration of the relationship between entrepreneurship, foundation and innovation on the one hand, and economic development on the other. Thereby, firstly the interactions between micro-political choices of the firms and the macro-political decisions of the federal levels and their implications on the development of economic systems are in the focus of the analysis. In addition to the contributions of economic sciences (programmatically organized in the “Schumpeter School of Business and Economics”), humanities and social sciences, also engineering sciences, mathematics and computer science are pivotal for the understanding of the technical aspects of innovation processes. The synergies among the mentioned sectors have an effect on the study offers of the new sector of industrial engineering.
With the outlined strategic focus, the University of Wuppertal is confident to follow a successful path with a view to future requirements in research, teaching and transfer. It continuously works in accordance with the above mentioned in order to increase its attractiveness with regard to the relevant target groups and to cope with the challenges in the national and global education competition.