24. October 2022

Top-level Research and Teaching for the Benefit of Society Top-level Research and Teaching for the Benefit of Society

The University of Bonn started the academic year 2022/2023 with a ceremony in the packed main auditorium of the University Main Building.

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The event began with the traditional procession of the Rectorate and the deans into the main auditorium to a musical accompaniment from the Campus Brass ensemble under the direction of Jörg Ritter. The procession was a little longer this year, augmented as it was, by the gowned Bonn University Ambassadors. Many further guests followed the events via livestream.

Opening the proceedings, Rector Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Hoch sent a message to students and academic staff that the winter semester was to be held primarily on-campus, complemented by digital offers. He went on to say that the University was keeping a close eye on both the pandemic situation and the consequences of the energy crisis for University operations. “As an institution we are confronted with multiple crises,” said Professor Hoch, referring to current world affairs. “Be it the pandemic or the energy crisis, University management is sparing no effort to help and support our students, especially those from abroad.” Various measures have already been implemented within the framework of the University’s Energy Strategy. Prof. Hoch highlighted the contribution of universities to the achievement of national energy savings targets, but at the same time, emphasized that they could not be left to bear the additional costs caused by rising energy prices on their own, and underlined the necessity of government support.

Confronted with multiple crises

In his speech, Rector Hoch outlined how the variety of international crises—above all Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—have presented German universities with new challenges, not least the need to reassess certain aspects of their international cooperation strategies. Cooperating with international institutions and organizations does not automatically yield benefits. “It can however have a positive effect—one that should not be underestimated—on power structures in countries struggling for democracy and freedom,” the Rector observed, “when young people return home after studying with us and experiencing these things here first-hand.” “It was thus the right thing to do to put our institutional-level partnerships with Russian institutions on hold. This at the same time as deliberately remaining in scientific dialogue and continuing to cooperate on the student mobility level to the extent possible.” The Rector called for greater international contact as long as clearly outlined values are upheld, pointing out the need to operate from a position of strength in efforts to cooperate with institutions, researchers and teaching professionals who are exposed to risk of reprisal and lack freedom in their work.

Excellent prospects

The Rector looked back on the large number of prestigious awards and prizes received by Bonn researchers in recent months, The University of Bonn achieved some of the best positions ever in international rankings. For example, the recent Times Higher Education (THE) ranking placed the University of Bonn 89th in the world, an improvement of 23 places from last year. In national terms, the University was ranked seventh. Looking ahead, the Rector focused on the Excellence Strategy: “We are in the middle of the new round of the competition. Our six Clusters of Excellence have developed fantastically and will of course submit follow-up applications in 2024." In addition, he said that the University of Bonn was working together with first-class regional partners to prepare new cluster initiatives. As an example, he mentioned the University of Cologne, which was represented at the ceremony by Rector Axel Freimuth and Provost Michael Stückradt. All three institutions are working to strengthen the "ABC axis" (Aachen, Bonn, Cologne and Jülich), which has already established itself as a national leader. An innovation park is to be created as a base for superregional research centers, start-ups and industrial cooperation, situated halfway between the universities of Cologne and Bonn. Concluding his address, the Rector underscored the continued commitment of the University of Excellence to top-level research and teaching as part of its wider contribution to the flourishing of society in challenging times.

In partnership with the city

In her welcoming speech, Mayor Katja Dörner emphasized the close ties that exist between the City of Bonn and the University. With its location at the heart of the City, she underlined the importance of the University as a partner in many areas. She outlined how the University of Excellence makes a significant contribution to the high reputation of the research region, through close links between academia, business and international institutions. She also spoke of the important contribution made by the University to sustainable change and the maintenance of social cohesion within the city. She wished all students, teachers and researchers a good start to the academic year and invited all students new to the city to remain in Bonn after graduation.

A global network and international prizes

The integration of the University of Bonn in global networks was underscored by the messages received from its strategic partners throughout the world. The Vice Rector for International Affairs, Prof. Dr. Birgit Ulrike Münch, presented the University Ambassadors Program. Eleven of the international Bonn University Ambassadors were present at the ceremony. As research ambassadors, they represent the University of Bonn around the globe.

The winners of a number of state prizes for outstanding scientific achievement were also announced during the event. The Premio Rey de España is awarded to Alba Iglesias Martin, Marién Salinas Valera and Luis Padberg, whilst the Prix de la République française is conferred on Lisa Thomas. Carlotta Wolfram receives the Queen's Prize. The prize of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) goes to Relindis Ebesoh Nkeng.

Focusing on data security

The ceremony was followed by a panel discussion focusing on a topic of great social relevance. The legal scholar Prof. Dr. Louisa Specht-Riemenschneider, the medical scientist Prof. Dr. Alexander Radbruch, the computer scientist and IT security expert Prof. Dr. Michael Meier and the director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics (FKIE), Prof. Dr. Peter Martini, discussed cyber security and the opportunities and challenges of using health data.

Madita Mues, chairperson of the General Students' Committee (AStA), spoke from a student perspective and called for greater government support for students. Arguing that the cost-of-living crisis is breaking the budget of many students, she pointed to a recent study that found that almost a third of students are living below the poverty line. Political decision-makers are called upon, she remarked, to ensure greater inclusion and equal opportunity, noting the pending BAFöG student loan reform, which represent a “ray of hope” and a step in the right direction.

The ceremony was enriched by the musical accompaniment of the University of Bonn Jazz Choir, Campus Brass and a classical music duo from the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences. Nicole Meck and Tristan Peña Hoffmann from the campus radio station bonnFM led the audience through the program. The event was interpreted into English as well as into German sign language.

Entering the auditorium
Entering the auditorium - The members of the Rectorate and the deans entering the auditorium. © Barbara Frommann/Uni Bonn
Review and outlook
Review and outlook - Rector Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Hoch reviewed the many prestigious awards and prizes received by University of Bonn researchers in recent months. © Barbara Frommann/Uni Bonn
Focus on data security
Focus on data security - A panel discussion was held on the societal hot topic of cybersecurity, focusing on opportunities and challenges around the use of health data. © Barbara Frommann/Uni Bonn
International network
International network - The Vice Rector for International Affairs, Prof. Dr. Birgit Ulrike Münch, presented the University Ambassadors Program. Eleven of the international Bonn University Ambassadors were present at the ceremony. © Barbara Frommann/Uni Bonn
Close partnership
Close partnership - In her welcoming speech, Mayor Katja Dörner emphasized the close ties that exist between the City of Bonn and the University. © Barbara Frommann/Uni Bonn
Hinweis auf Notlagen
Hinweis auf Notlagen - Madita Mues, chairperson of the General Students' Committee (AStA), representing the student perspective, called for greater support for students. © Barbara Frommann/Uni Bonn
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