The History of the Leuphana University of Lüneburg

A young, dynamic university with an eventful history

What if the founding permission of Emperor Frederick III (1471) and Pope Sixtus IV (1479) had been put into practice? Presumably, Lüneburg would be home to a centuries-old university rich in tradition. But things turned out differently: with a history of just over 70 years, Leuphana University Lüneburg is still a young university. Through its foundation and development after the Second World War, gradual transformation into an independent university and foundation, merger and comprehensive realignment as a model university, it can nevertheless look back on a dynamic history.

1471/1479: Emperor Frederick III first grants permission to establish a high school of law in Lüneburg. Pope Sixtus IV later approves the establishment of a university in Lüneburg with all upper faculties and a general study program.

1946: Foundation of a College of Education (PH) in Lüneburg on the initiative of the British. The university was to help establish a new democratic tradition in Germany by training teachers.

1971: Foundation of the University of Applied Sciences Northeast Lower Saxony (FH NON) as successor institution of the State Academy of Engineering for Water Management and Cultural Technology in Suderburg and the State Academy of Engineering for Civil Engineering in Buxtehude. Its headquarters are initially located in Buxtehude. In view of the intention to establish a comprehensive university in Lüneburg at that time, the departments of social work and economics are founded here in 1978 and the university administration is also moved to Lüneburg in 1981. In 1978, the PH Lüneburg thus becomes an independent scientific university with the right to award doctorates and post-doctoral degrees.

1980s: In the 1980s, the subject spectrum is expanded to include economics, social sciences and cultural studies. In 1989, the former Hochschule Lüneburg becomes a university by resolution of the Lower Saxony state parliament.

1990s: In the 1990s, the subject spectrum is expanded to include environmental sciences. In 1997, the university moves from its previous location in Rotes Feld to the former Scharnhorst Barracks of the German Armed Forces, today's central campus, as part of a conversion project that attracts nationwide attention.

2003: As one of the first five universities in Germany, the University of Lüneburg is converted into a foundation under public law. It thus gains extended possibilities for independent action, among other things through an independent right of appointment, through independent building ownership and through independent job and financial planning.

2005: By law of the Lower Saxony State Parliament, the University of Lüneburg merges with the University of Applied Sciences Northeast Lower Saxony and receives the mandate to develop a model university for the Bologna Process. On the one hand, this leads to an expansion of the subject spectrum of the respective predecessor institutions: From the point of view of the former university, by engineering, business law and business psychology; from the point of view of the former university of applied sciences, by teacher training, cultural studies, economics and social sciences, and environmental sciences. On the other hand, due to subject overlaps, the merger also leads to cutbacks, especially in business administration and social pedagogy. The new university is initially organized into three faculties (Faculty I: Educational and Cultural Sciences, Faculty II: Economics and Social Sciences, Faculty III: Environmental, Natural and Technical Sciences) and four locations (Scharnhorststraße Campus, Rotes Feld Campus, Volgershall Campus, Suderburg Campus).

2006: In implementation of the state mandate to develop a model university, the University of Lüneburg begins a comprehensive reorientation. It develops a university model that is unique in Germany to date, with a college for bachelor's studies, a graduate school for master's and doctoral studies, and a professional school for continuing education and lifelong learning.

2007: As a result of its realignment, the university gives itself a new name as Leuphana University of Lüneburg and implements its new study and university model. Leuphana College for undergraduate students begins operations with a new type of study model and initially 10 major and 27 minor degree programs, as well as 3 degree programs with a teaching option and 12 teaching subjects. The Leuphana Professional School for continuing education students starts with initially 7 master's degree programs. The Leuphana Graduate School for master's and doctoral students follows a year later with an initial 8 master's degree programs.

2009: With the Innovation Incubator Lüneburg, Leuphana launches a major EU project with a volume of around EUR 98 million as a contribution to the development of the Lüneburg region. Among other things, international competence tandems for the development of new research focuses, joint projects for the promotion of practical cooperation, company start-ups and settlements as well as new continuing education courses and study offers strengthen the knowledge base of the region. Also in 2009, the Suderburg campus with engineering courses in soil and hydraulic engineering is transferred to the Wolfenbüttel University of Applied Sciences, now Ostfalia University of Applied Sciences.

2010: The university reorganizes its faculties again and establishes the four faculties of education, culture, sustainability and economics that exist today.

2013: The DFG Research Training Group "Media Cultures of Computer Simulation" (MECS) begins its work.

2016: The DFG Research Training Group "Cultures of Critique" - the first DFG-funded research training group at Leuphana - begins its work. Using specific cases of art, media, and social criticism, the Kolleg examines the connection between criticism and culture in the history of modernity up to the present.

2017: Leuphana's new central building, designed by Daniel Libeskind, opens.

2018: The first Utopia Conference takes place in the new central building.

2019: Together with the University of Glasgow, Leuphana founds the European Centre for Advanced Studies (ECAS).

2020: While many German universities postpone the start of lectures for the summer semester due to the Corona crisis, Leuphana manages to start the lecture period digitally on time with more than 90 percent of its approximately 1,600 planned courses, because it created the necessary technical as well as didactic prerequisites for digitally supported courses at an early stage. 

2022: The university establishes the Faculty of Public Affairs. This fifth and youngest faculty carries a profile that is new in Germany and addresses the major transformations of our time in its research.

2023: Funded by the "Niedersächsisches Vorab" of the Volkswagen Foundation, Leuphana establishes the Leuphana Institute for Advanced Studies (LIAS) in Culture and Society. Over the next five years, it will offer international scientists the opportunity to conduct basic research in the social and cultural sciences at the highest level.