Opening Week: First-semester Students Design the City of 2050

Around 1,600 first semester students examine the consequences of demographic change—Hamburg’s Mayor Olaf Scholz, the Maltese Education Minister Evarist Bartolo, and Leuphana Profesor Daniel Libeskind speak with students


Lüneburg. A vision of the city of the future emerged in October at Leuphana University Lüneburg.  In conjunction with the Republic of Malta as well as the active support of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, about 1,600 beginning students attending Leuphana College designed an ideal image of the fictive city of Leinwig in the year 2050 over the course of a five-day planning simulation.  Under the heading, “Future. City. Life!”, students learned about demographic change, digitalization, and sustainable development.  Numerous international guests and experts from politics, the sciences and public administration provided technical input and a close connection to actual working conditions. At the end of Leuphana’s Opening Week, a jury of prominent experts awarded prizes to the best student proposals.

The students were organized into a total of about 110 teams as they worked away on their proposals.  Over 100 student tutors, 50 mentors and 15 faculty members from nine different countries lent them support.  In developing their proposals, students drew from courses on campus as well as from an online platform hosted by the Leuphana Digital School and developed by the Lüneburg start-up company, cadena.  Members of the twelve-member jury included Rebecca Harms, parliamentary floor leader for the Greens in the EU-Parliament, Reiner Nagel, chief executive for the Federal Building Culture Foundation, Dirk-Ulrich Mende, Mayor of the city of Celle, the future researcher, Parag Khanna, and Carsten Siebert, managing director of the Barenboim-Said Academy.

“It is important for us that the students learn right at the start of their education that they can take responsibility for themselves and their society,” Holm Keller, the full-time Vice President of Leuphana University Lüneburg said.  “The assignment to create a compelling design for a fictional city in the middle of a demographic transformation is ideally suited for developing solutions that are acceptable both to young students and the European political system.

The background for this year’s Opening Week was provided by a large-scale EU-project to promote a scientifically based innovation under the title, “Healthy Living and Active Ageing.” Its purpose is to ascertain the economic growth potential of demographic change and to enable people to lead an active life into an advanced age.  Leuphana is heading a consortium to apply for EU funding for this project.    

The Opening Week at Leuphana University Lüneburg counts as one of the exceptional events in and around the university of this old Hanseatic city.  In previous years, first semester students participated in a large start-up competition or developed guiding principles for a new health care system, for example.  During another Opening Week, artists from many different countries used the Artotale event to transform the city of Lüneburg into a street art exhibition.
Leuphana University Lüneburg sees itself as a public university for the civil society of the 21st century.  Its university model is unique within Germany and has received many awards.  Approximately 8,000 young people study at Leuphana.