Ideas Carry Our University Forward

Leuphana University continued to work intensively in 2014 on developing its concept of a university that serves the civil society of the 21st century. The events of 2014 demonstrated that the university’s strategic decisions were focused on the right topics.

Leuphana can look back at a year in which the university received many awards and considerable recognition. Again in 2014 there were more than 9000 students at Leuphana, almost a 1000 more than in the previous year. Major funders such as the German Research Foundation and the Volkswagen Foundation supported the university with important research projects. The total for third-party funding stood at 35 million Euros by the end of the year—more than four times as high as at the start of the university’s reorientation in 2006. The total number of academic staff more than doubled during the same time period, as did the number of PhD students. And prestigious institutions continued to recognize Leuphana with awards in 2014.

Student demand for the opportunity to study at Leuphana continues to remain high, far exceeding the available openings: for this current Winter semester there were on average six student applications for each available spot. This popular demand and the growing need for good teachers and advisors for these students is being met through innovations and extra efforts, along with additional professors and funding, altogether about 155 professors, 30 visiting scholars, and around 600 academic staff members and PhD students, who serve as tutors to supplement the course offerings. Leuphana’s stimulating educational and research environment is made possible by teamwork provided by the administrative staff, as well as the central advising and student services offices, and the lively campus life.

Topics Instead of Disciplines

As a university serving civil society, the guiding principles of Leuphana’s research and instruction are not confined to traditional academic disciplines, but rather take an interdisciplinary approach to social challenges without worrying about disciplinary boundaries. Early on, the university decided to develop a topic-oriented profile in order to work on central social problems and challenges in an inter- and transdisciplinary manner. This strategy has paid off. Leuphana researchers are today working on key areas such as sustainability, digital media, cultural studies, health, education research, as well as management and entrepreneurship.

Well-endowed support from distinguished third-party funding agencies in support of these research initiatives proves that Leuphana’s efforts have been fruitful. The German Research Foundation and the Volkswagen Foundation have committed significant support for important research projects in topics related to sustainability and culture. Already with its program, “Science for Sustainable Development,” Leuphana was able to beat out stiff competition so that it was included in four of the eight proposals receiving approval, for a total of 4.5 million Euros support. These funds will be made available to Leuphana academics engaged in social-economic research, the development of new scientific methods, as well as for research in sustainable urban development and consumption.

“Such funding decisions show that we were focused on the right topics from early on. They are also important indicators of quality growth, because they are the result of our scientists’ research accomplishments and choice of topics,” President Spoun said about their success.

The elevated research performance can also be measured in terms of the number of academic publications and citations. According to the publication index, Web of Science, the number of citations has grown six-fold since 2006.

A Sharper Profile for the Schools Model

Students at Leuphana also learn within the framework of an interdisciplinary educational model consisting of three schools at Leuphana: the College (for Bachelor degrees), the Graduate School (for Master’s degrees) and the Professional School (for continuing education).

Leuphana entered new territory seven years ago when it initiated this university model aimed at specific target-groups. The rising student numbers in all three schools proves that they are on the right path. The growth continues: Civil society in the 21st century is an international society. This is why Leuphana continued to develop its international education programs in 2014. Starting in the coming year, English-language courses will be available in all the Faculties—whether its popular music studies in the Faculty of Education, digital media in Humanities and Social Sciences, international business administration & entrepreneurship in Business and Economics, or environmental and sustainability studies in the Faculty of Sustainability. These English-language programs foster diversity and make it easier for foreign students to integrate into a degree program at Leuphana. At the same time, they give all students the opportunity to experience multiple perspectives and to take advantage of international variety and diversity as part of their education.

Educational Quality Remains a Central Commitment

Alongside the numerous existing instruments to measure educational quality, such as quality circles, which bring students and faculty together, Leuphana was able to record another success in this area during 2014: Leuphana was the first university in Lower Saxony to receive a system accreditation. Speaking for the German accreditation council, the ACQUIN agency confirmed that the university’s quality management policies ensured that national and international quality standards, including all legal guidelines for higher education, were being maintained. The core of the system accreditation is an internal procedure that replaces the quality tests taken by individual degree programs with external accreditation agencies. The newly developed process was carried out successfully in three degree programs. The report assessing the system accreditation confirmed: “The procedures and processes of Leuphana were assessed positively by the evaluation panel.” Leuphana’s “quality management system is a learning process that depends on responsible people providing their cooperation and critique.”

College at Full Capacity

More than 6,000 students are currently registered the College’s degree programs. The most sought after majors among first-semester students were business psychology, business administration, and cultural studies. Increases were also seen in the number of applications for the “Individual Studies” Bachelor program, in which students put together their own major.

That the newly created digital media major received nine applications for every opening was an especially promising sign. This major exemplifies how the university’s transdisciplinary mission can enhance civil society: Leuphana connects students with social actors as part of the major. Leuphana is particularly well positioned in digital media through its DFG-sponsored research group, various competence tandems that are part of the EU-Innovation Incubator, and especially the support of the Volkswagen Foundation. In addition, the major also includes cooperative programs with the Hamburg Media School and the City University in Hong Kong. Leuphana is using its diversified network of courses and its collaborations with numerous actors from the business world to meet the challenges that digitalization presents in changing our society.

In Lüneburg all degree programs have restricted admissions, which means that the number of openings is limited. This applies to the 13 majors in the College as well as to majors in the three teacher training degree programs. Since 2007, Leuphana has been using an innovative selection procedure for all its admissions. Because transcripts do not always express every type of skill and passion, students are able to improve their admissions ranking through extracurricular activities, a strong score on a scholastic aptitude test, or an impressive admissions interview. So far about 2,000 applicants have used this option.

Graduate School Continues to Grow

The Graduate School of Leuphana is also continuing to grow. About 2,150 students are currently registered in the Graduate School’s majors, this winter semester a good 700 of them have taken up their studies in the Master programs Arts & Sciences, Management & Entrepreneurship, as well as in Education. The Master’s programs offered at Leuphana are highly favored by college graduates from other universities. They represent a disproportionately high percentage of the student population when compared nationally to other universities. The semi-structured PhD programs are also in high demand. In total, more than 500 doctoral students are registered at Leuphana.

The Leuphana Graduate School is attractive for both Master’s and doctoral students because it offers services such as the GRADSKILLS qualification portal, which provides access to a list (organized by subject matter and chronology) of the many continuing education and qualification programs provided by Leuphana, as well as a wide range of scholarship opportunities.

The Professional School Expands its Course Offerings

The number of students enrolled in the Professional School continues to grow. At the moment, around 800 students have registered in the 18 degree programs the Professional School offers. The popular continuing education Bachelor program in Social Work for Educators allows professionals, who otherwise have no options for further development, a new opportunity. The largest number of students can be found in the MBA-degree program in Sustainability Management. The continuing education Master’s in Competition & Regulation LL.M. is the latest program in the array. Taught completely in English, this degree program is a singular opportunity within Germany to specialize in competition and regulatory law. Three new degree programs are being planned for 2015: two Master’s programs in law dedicated to question in environmental and tax law. The Master’s in Good Governance and Human Rights will also give a strong impetus to Leuphana’s internationally oriented, English-language degree programs.

The Digital School Opens up New Opportunities

Leuphana’s new “Digital School” allows people all over the world to earn a university education. Leuphana is the first German university to have bundled its digital course in this format. Unlike other Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), Leuphana’s approach is distinct for the intensive advising it provides to participants. This is why the Digital School refers to its programs as Mentored Open Online Courses. Another special feature is the awarding of credit points. They can be accepted by other universities as course credits. In Leuphana’s first online university course, participants designed models for living in the dense urban areas of the future. The course was directed by the renowned architect and Leuphana professor, Daniel Libeskind. The Digital School’s course offerings have expanded in the meantime: businesses can now also profit from the digital university. For the first time this year Leuphana set up digital courses at the behest of Deutsche Telekom AG. 

Teacher training is Future Oriented

Teacher training exemplifies the university’s mission for civil society: a close connection between academically grounded teacher training and the systematic engagement with classroom practices is one of the distinctive features of Leuphana’s mission. The university works closely together with schools and teacher training seminars in the region. The network of campus schools is characteristic for a close collaboration on the level of content, methods and organization between academic education, scientific research and hands-on teaching. The many activities of the campus schools are part of the overall program of continued training for teachers in Lüneburg. The Center for the Future of Teacher Education (ZZL), started two years ago, bundles together Leuphana’s existing initiatives and develops new ideas for the future oriented education of teachers. The Center’s initiatives have received many awards, establishing it as a site for innovation.

Prizes and Awards in 2014

Leuphana had a successful year in 2014’s awards competitions. For the second year in a row, Leuphana University of Lüneburg reached the top position among German universities that encourage start-up companies. This is the conclusion of a report, “Start-Up Radar,” released by the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft. No other medium sized university has demonstrated greater success in the many different aspects of start-up company development, the Stifterverband concluded. The Leuphana project, “Thermal Battery,” earned a position as a finalist in the German Sustainability Prize for Research, a major accomplishment for sustainability researchers at Leuphana. They were able to advance from a pool of 80 applicants. Lüneburg researchers earned another finalist position in the North German Science Award. The project that was singled out, “EnERgioN,” analyses the storage and distribution of renewable energy in north Germany. The project will contribute considerably to the German energy transition and will be implemented by Lüneburg’s Innovation-Incubator.

The German UNESCO commission chose a proposal put forward by Leuphana for sustainability in professional education as part of the UN-Decade on “Education for Sustainable Development.” Initiatives that receive this designation exemplify the United Nations’ worldwide education offensive to encourage children, youth, and adults to engage in sustainable thinking. Dr. Barbara Hendricks, the Federal of the Environment, granted Leuphana an additional award in the field of sustainability. She praised the university as one of 18 exemplary organizations nation-wide that incorporated environmental protection into their daily operations.
Incubator in the Home Stretch

In order to have an impact on the civil society of the 21st century, Leuphana’s Innovation-Incubator combines top-level research and entrepreneurship, the university and the region. The EU Commission approved Leuphana University of Lüneburg’s Innovation-Incubator as a large-scale project in 2009. The Federal State of Lower Saxony and the university had conceived the project in order to foster high-quality research in Lüneburg and to invigorate the economy in the former administrative district of Lüneburg sustainably. Of a total investment of almost 100 million Euros, the lion’s share comes from the 64 million Euros provided by the European Funds for Regional Development—this is the largest funding contribution that any university in Europe has received from the European structural funds for the purposes of fostering innovation. The Innovation-Incubator accelerates the transfer of knowledge from academic research to business in the region of northeast Lower Saxony. By the end of the project’s term on July 31, 2015, a total of 45 innovation projects will have been implemented. About 250 researchers from around the world are currently working together with over 500 businesses and organizations. These businesses have numerous avenues of cooperation available to them—from one-day workshops to multi-year, international research projects. The main priorities of the projects are topics such as digital media, health, and sustainable energy.

Construction of the Central Building Continues to Progress

The public image of Leuphana also grew this year with the development of the most visible project on campus: the central building will become the new social and communicative hub of the university campus and the architectural expression of the university’s interdisciplinary educational model. It will allow students and researchers at Leuphana the necessary space to work together and communicate with each other more intensively. The building will also function as cultural and municipal center, thereby reinforcing the connection between the university, the city, and the region.

At the same time, the central building will scrutinize the history of the university campus as a military base during the 1930s Nazi-dictatorship, thereby allowing the relationship between the university and its campus to evolve further. “Sometimes a single building, that inscribes itself emblematically in an intellectual and spiritual sense, can change everyone’s perspective . . . so that people can better understand their history,” said the architect Daniel Libeskind already in 2011.

The building has already risen to a height of 25 meters. The core construction for the auditorium maximum is complete, the student center’s core is almost finished and the planned research center, the tallest portion of the building, has almost reached the highest story. The toping-off ceremony is scheduled for 19. January. The progress of the construction can be followed via web-cam at

Our Ideas, Our University—Our Position

The university’s mission for civil society, its orientation toward the values of a humanistic, pragmatic, and sustainable university, that understands itself in terms of interdisciplinary work on broad topics rather than in isolated disciplines. This means that the university’s educational model is oriented toward the different educational phases students undergo while seeking to connect actors within society and business to the university’s research and instruction: Leuphana’s success in the year 2014 is a result of the active implementation of this university model. It will also serve as the foundation for Leuphana’s continued dynamic development in the year 2015.