The University of Freiburg consistently achieves top positions in all university rankings. The university’s research and instruction received the “Excellence” seal in 2007 and again in 2009. More than 200 fields of study and a wide array of possible degrees attract a total of around 25,000 students to Freiburg, including many international students and junior researchers.
Freiburg Has Appeal
Many of the buildings of the University of Freiburg are centrally located in the old town, others only minutes away. Students and employees are closely connected to the daily life – and the nightlife – of a vibrant cultural center. Nestled between the Rhine valley and the Black Forest, the “Green City” Freiburg is known for cycling in the summer, snowboarding in the winter, and its close proximity to Switzerland and France. The cuisine in Alsace is particularly enticing and is complemented perfectly by regional wines, such as the “Uni-Wine,” grown on the university’s own vineyards thanks to well-meaning benefactors.
In 1989 the universities in the upper Rhine valley formed a confederation (EUCOR). The alliance gives 150,000 students at the universities of Freiburg, Karlsruhe, Strasbourg, Mulhouse/Colmar, and Basel the chance to take courses at the other member universities and thus to complement their degree programs, gain international experience, and improve their language skills.
Highlights from the Faculties
The Faculty of Mathematics and Physics covers the entire spectrum of mathematical disciplines. In physics research the university focuses on nuclear physics and high-energy and elementary particle physics.
The university’s Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy is one of the most important centers for interdisciplinary polymer research. The pioneering research of Freiburg’s Nobel laureate Hermann Staudinger in the fields of organic and macromolecular chemistry formed the basis for the development of synthetic materials.
At the Faculty of Biology, world-renowned biologists such as Weismann, Spemann, and Oehlkers made revolutionary contributions to developmental biology which set the stage for modern genetic research.
The Faculty of Engineering, composed of departments of computer science and microsystems technology, has earned an outstanding reputation since its founding in 1995. Through the combination of various fields, such as electronics, optics, mechanics, and chemistry, the faculty’s researchers develop miniature technical solutions for nearly all domains of industry and life.
The Faculty of Medicine enjoys a high international standing for its experimental and clinical research. Almost 8,000 doctors, nurses, and other employees work at the University Medical Center, which cares for nearly 60,000 inpatients and around 350,000 ambulatory patients a year in its 14 clinics and their 30 departments.
The humanities have a long and illustrious tradition at the University of Freiburg. Many outstanding accomplishments in the fields of philosophy, history, and the philology of various European languages are linked to the names and publications of scholars from Freiburg.
The economics institutes of the university, associated with the names of Walter Eucken, who founded the moderately liberal “Freiburg School,” and Nobel laureate Friedrich August von Hayek, focus mainly on political economy.
Excellence in Instruction and Research
The University of Freiburg has received multiple State Teaching Awards, an honor given by the Ministry of Science, Research, and the Arts of Baden-Württemberg to promote instruction at the state’s higher education institutions. The award was conferred for the first time in 1993. Since this initial success, the University of Freiburg has won the award again and again.
In order to strengthen instruction even more, the University of Freiburg introduced its own University Teaching Award in 2007.
The University of Freiburg was among the winners of the nationwide “Excellent Teaching” competition in 2009. Organized by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs and the Stifterverband for German Science and Research, the competition recognizes innovative instructional concepts.
In 2007 the University of Freiburg became one of nine top universities in Germany to be honored in the Excellence Initiative for outstanding research. A year earlier in the first round of the competition, the “Spemann Graduate School of Biology and Medicine” (SGBM) had already received approval for funding. Since then, it has provided an outstanding interdisicplinary PhD program for many young scientists from various fields.
BIOSS, “Centre for Biological Signalling Studies,” selected for funding in 2007, studies the complex organization of signaling processes in and between cells. The cluster combines modern analytical methods with innovative techniques from synthetic biology.
This success will make it possible to attract highly qualified early-stage researchers as well as internationally renowned scientists and visiting scholars to the University of Freiburg. With an international research institute, the “Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies” (FRIAS), Freiburg aims to consolidate its position among the top research universities in the world. The institute’s scholarships provide freedom for excellent research. The FRIAS is focusing initially on four disciplines: literature and linguistics, materials research, history, and life sciences. The life sciences are an amalgam of biochemistry, molecular cell biology, applied sciences, neurosciences, mathematics, physics, and the humanities. They are thus a successful and internationally recognized model for interdisciplinary teaching and learning in and of themselves.
“Could it be that I’m a zombie?” Studium Generale spices up every semester with lectures, readings, concerts, excursions, and courses on sports, health, art, music, languages, and self-management. The program affords students insight into other disciplines and is also open to the citizens of Freiburg.
Incidentally, the opening question is from the Studium Generale series “What is Our Self? Neurosciences and Philosophy in Dialog” from winter semester 2010/2011.
The University Library (UB) houses more than 3.7 million volumes, including tens of thousands of electronic publications. In addition, the UB owns numerous manuscripts, 3,448 printed books from the 15th century (incunabula), and approx. 35,000 books from the 16th and 17th centuries. For over ten years, the UB’s audiovisual media center has provided students and lecturers assistance using cameras, microphones, film editing equipment, and multimedia software. The UB is also connected to over 50 departmental libraries in the region.
The University Library welcomes over 38,000 patrons per semester. Those who are not students or employees of the university can purchase a guest card to use the library.
Who were Albert and Ludwig? What was the “Karzer” used for? When did women receive the right to study? What triggered the student protest movement? In 2007, on the university’s 550th birthday, the Uniseum opened in the Old University on Bertoldstraße. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll through six centuries of university and academic history, marvel at the exhibits, and experience sudden insight. Incidentally, the original university was located on the exact same site, but was replaced by the building known today as the “Old University” by the Jesuits in the 17th century. The vaulted brick cellar provides a look into the history of the building, including damage incurred during World War II and its subsequent reconstruction. Tip: Don’t miss the courtyard!
The Uniseum also organizes courses and other events, installations, and performances. Admission is free. The lobby of the Uniseum accommodates the UniShop, which sells shirts, caps, and more with the university logo.
Instruction and Research in Freiburg
Instruction and research also play an important role at Freiburg’s four other higher education institutions. The Hochschule für Musik Freiburg, the College of Education, and Catholic and Protestant universities of applied sciences also educate students. Moreover, Freiburg is home to a number of research institutes: five institutes of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics, for Applied Solid State Physics, for Physical Measurement, for the Mechanics of Materials, and for Solar Energy Systems), two institutes of the Max Planck Society (MPI of Immunobiology and MPI for the Study of Crime, Security and Law), and the Leibniz Institute for Solar Physics of the Leibniz Association. Some of these institutes, all of which enjoy an excellent reputation in their respective disciplines, were founded by the university. The university works closely with all of them, and their directors are also professors of the University of Freiburg.
The university also maintains close ties with the Forest Testing and Research Institute of Baden-Württemberg, the State Viticultural Institute, the Mathematical Research Institute of Oberwolfach, the Arnold Bergsträsser Institute, the Walter Eucken Institute, the Öko-Institut, and the Institute for Micro- and Information Technology of the Hahn-Schickard-Gesellschaft.
Altogether, Freiburg’s higher education and research institutions have a total of 30,000 students and around 16,000 employees, which demonstrates the key role education and research play in the city. The university and the university medical center account for 15,000 of these 16,000 employees, making them the largest employer in Southern Baden.