Saturday, June 16, 2012

Excellence Lost

No it's not the paradise lost but following a re-evaluation of Germany's universities Freiburg's alma mater lost its status of excellence it gained five years ago. The lost status not only is a blow to Freiburg's self esteem but also means a loss of special funding. The total money involved in the program for Germany's now eleven elite universities will amount to 2.5 billion euros over the next five years.

People who assembled in Freiburg's university’s rectorate yesterday night for a party to celebrate the university's confirmation in the rank of excellence were devastated when Rector Schiewer announced the bad news. Today Freiburg's media spread a general morning-after feeling (Katerstimmung). The Badische Zeitung published a photo with the university flag at half mast.

Photo Badische Zeitung
The following map shows the new distribution of elite universities, the lighthouses of science, in Germany. Yellow stars stand for the newcomers whereas blue stars mark the losers.

Map dpa
I am sad to see Göttingen where I passed in 1957 my Vordiplom (some sort of bachelor) in physics marked with a blue star but I am happy to see Berlin's venerable Humboldt University among the winners. Berlin once had its old university and a technical university but after the war following the city’s division into four allied forces sectors the Humboldt University was located in the east. So with the help of American funding the Free University was founded in Berlin's western sectors such that today there are three universities in our nation's capital with two labeled excellent. The choice of Tübingen where I started my studies in 1955 fills me with joy. In Dresden, following the fall of the Wall, I participated in a somewhat unofficial evaluation of one of the physic's institutes in spring 1990.

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