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Excellence Initiative: The University of Freiburg Demonstrates Top Position

Albert-Ludwig University Can Realize Graduate School “Molecular Cell Research in Biology and Medicine”

Freiburg, 13.10.2006

The grants committee has reached its eagerly awaited decision in the excellence initiative of the German federal and state governments for the promotion of science and research at German universities: The committee approved funding for the graduate school “Molecular Cell Research in Biology and Medicine” at the Albert-Ludwig University in the first round. The university will receive a total of five million euros in funding for the next five years.

However, more important for the University of Freiburg is the positive response to its concept for the future: The university was credited with having submitted one of the best concepts for the future. The University of Freiburg would have undoubtedly been among the frontrunners by virtue of its concept for the future had only its excellence cluster been successful. The Albert-Ludwig University of Freiburg thus sees itself in an excellent position for the second round of proposals.

Accordingly, the University of Freiburg received the decision positively and congratulated the three universities chosen in the first round. The rector of the university, Professor Dr. Wolfgang Jäger, sees the grants committee’s decision as “a clear indication that the University of Freiburg is well prepared to compete for the title of top-level university with its excellence research and instruction. However, we need to improve our proposal for the second line of funding (excellence cluster).“

In any case, the university will continue to follow the goals presented in its concept for the future. The concept will be used to attract highly qualified young academics and internationally renowned researchers and visiting scholars in order to further increase the excellence in research at the university. Instead of days on end of obstacles filled with applications for third-party funds, commission work, and bureaucracy, researchers will be given the freedom they need to conduct excellent research.

The committee approved funding for the graduate school „Molecular Cell Research in Biology and Medicine“ at the Albert-Ludwig University. The objective of this graduate school, called MOBILMED for short, is to offer excellent, highly motivated students from biology, medicine, molecular medicine, chemistry, and other subjects superb interdisciplinary training. This will be achieved through the following measures:

The graduate school is based on ten established research and teaching programs supported by four research training groups (RTGs), the International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS), four collaborative research centers (CRSs), and the Bernstein Center for Computational Neurosciences (BCCN), all of which are characterized by high scientific standards and led by internationally renowned scientists. The programs cover a wide range of research disciplines, such as protein structure and function, developmental biology, neurosciences, immunology, molecular medicine, and molecular plant sciences. These disciplines will by interconnected and supplemented by interdisciplinary courses offered by the Center of Systems Biology (ZBSA) and the International Graduate Academy of the university.

The initiative began in July 2005. Freiburg is among the ten top universities which has reached the final round in all three lines of funding. The university has thus yet again demonstrated its top position among German universities, already documented in nationwide rankings. With this honor in the „excellence initiative,” an internationally recognized decision has been made in favor of Freiburg.

Further information:

The “Concept for the Future of the University of Freiburg” (3rd line of funding) is Entitled “Windows for Research” – New Universitas and Four Beacons of Learning

The concept for the future of the University of Freiburg, developed by a team headed by deputy rector Prof. Dr. Karl-Reinhard Volz, has three main objectives: It aims to open up “windows for research” in which our scholars will be given the opportunity to unleash their full creativity and potential at the university itself, an essential precondition for establishing a lasting culture of world-class research in Freiburg. This also includes explicit support for highly qualified young scholars.
It aims to foster the idea of a “New Universitas” through communication between the disciplines, thus making maximum use of the unique opportunity afforded by a classical university to open up innovative potential at the frontiers of and points of intersection between the disciplines.
It aims, above and beyond existing international networks, to further cultivate its own “internal internationalization” as an international community of teaching and learning for scholars and students.

The University of Freiburg aims to pursue all three of these objectives on the basis of its unique academic profile, which consists in a broad spectrum of highly competitive disciplines and four outstanding areas of research which are internationally recognized as “beacons of learning.”

The university intends to achieve these objectives by way of the following measures:
1 The founding of a “Freiburg Institute of Advanced Studies” (FRIAS) with four beacons of learning: (a) School of Historical Studies, (b) School of Language and Literature, (c) School of Life Sciences, (d) School of Soft Matter Science and Functional Systems. The members of FRIAS will be top researchers of international renown who will be invited by the schools to become fellows for a period of up to three years. The members will consist, in approximately equal parts, of senior fellows of the University of Freiburg, external senior fellows (international guest scholars), and internal and external junior fellows. In addition to providing windows for research to allow fellows to explore their scholarly creativity as well as a forum for interdisciplinary communication, FRIAS will also function as a sounding board for the strategic development of the university, particularly for the consolidation of the New Universitas.

2 The development of a central “Science Support Center,” which will provide professional advice to researchers in setting up research projects and support them in applying for and processing third-party funding.
3 The expansion of the “Freiburg International Graduate Academy,” which promotes young scholars in the doctoral research phase by providing structural guidelines, quality standards, and opportunities for further qualification.

4 A program for promoting young scholars (“Research Group Program”) in the postdoctoral phase. Competitive procedures will be implemented in this program to provide an added stimulus for areas of top-level research beyond the scope of the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies, top-level research in association with industrial partners, and outstanding woman scholars in the natural sciences and technological disciplines (“Bertha Ottenstein Chair”).

5 A program to foster the idea of a “New Universitas.” The program will support the work of the transdisciplinary research centers of the university and individual joint projects developed by research groups in the natural sciences and the humanities.

The effectiveness of these measures will be ensured by placing overall responsibility for the programs in the hands of administrative board supported by an international advisory committee as well as through permanent monitoring by the university council, clear allocation of responsibility at all levels of university and faculty administration, and a strict quality-oriented monitoring of success with a system of internal and external evaluations which will also take into account the openness of the university to the business sector and society (“reaching out”).