12th Annual EAIE Conference,
30 November to 2 December 2000
by Svend Poller and Ulrike Renker
Dr Svend Poller is Director of the International Centre of the University of Leipzig;
Ulrike Renker works in the Office of European & International Affairs of
the University of Leipzig, and is the local coordinator for the 12th Annual EAIE Conference
Leipzig is a good place to host a conference with a special theme ‘Re-forming higher education: the international way’. Ten years after the political changes in Eastern Europe the people, the university and the city have experienced reforms in every aspect of life.
As a trade city Leipzig has always been open to meeting new challenges. It has been famous for its Trade Fair since the 15th century, and over the centuries the Fair has had a decisive influence on the city and its development into one of the major East–West trading centres. The first Sample Fair (1895) and the first Technical Fair (1918) were both held in Leipzig. The fairs have created an international atmosphere, attracting people from all over the world, and stimulating other sectors of industry, trade and culture.
Owing to the interruption of economic activity in World War II and during the period of the German Democratic Republic, Leipzig’s leading role as a trade fair and business centre could not be sustained. After the political changes in 1989 it was decided to set up a new state-of-the art exhibition centre, one of the largest in Europe. The New Trade Fair and Congress Centre opened in April 1996. It combines perfect functionalism with adventure and relaxation. An optimal infrastructure is ensured through its close proximity to the Leipzig/Halle Airport and direct access to the A14 Halle-Dresden motorway. The fair ground and the city of Leipzig are linked by tram and train connections.
Meanwhile, the old business houses in the city centre were extensively restored and can now be admired in all their former glory.
The Leipzig tradition of music also contributes to the international flair of the city. Johann Sebastian Bach, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and Robert Schumann are three great names closely associated with Leipzig as a city of music. The Gewandhaus Orchestra became world-famous under Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, and the foundation of Germany’s first conservatory in Leipzig is also among his achievements. Famous musicians such as Richard Wagner, Johannes Brahms, Anton Brückner, Peter Tchaikovsky, Gustav Mahler and Edward Grieg are among the conductors who have performed here. Johann Sebastian Bach worked from 1723 till 1750 at St Thomas Church and was the Thomaskantor of St Thomas’s Boys Choir, one of the most famous children’s choirs in the world. The 250th anniversary of his death will be marked with a festival in the summer of 2000.
The city of Leipzig is said to be one of the ‘boom towns’ in the New Federal States of Germany. Located in the heart of Europe, with its tradition as a city of commerce and a prestigious university, Leipzig is an excellent place for bringing together people from the East and West.
Leipzig University was founded in 1409. At the beginning of the 19th century it was one of the most popular universities, along with Berlin and Munich. Under the Nazi regime of the Third Reich it began to decline. After the Second World War academic freedom in teaching and research was again restricted, this time by the Soviet occupation forces and the leadership of the totalitarian socialist party, the SED. In order to escape from increasing political and ideological pressures, many well-known academics fled to the West. Restrictions were imposed on academic self-government and on the democratic involvement of members of the University in all matters of university administration. It was only the political changes of autumn 1989, which started in Leipzig, that made a complete renewal possible from the top down. One of the major tasks brought about by this renewal of ideas and attitudes, of personnel and the overall structure of academia, was and remains to compensate for the severe reduction in staff – the number of jobs fell from some 14 000 to around 8000.
The enormous changes in recent years re-established Leipzig University as a European university with a global perspective. The number of international students, the success of the SOCRATES programme, and new courses with an international dimension are evidence of this development.
Contacts with eastern European universities have been traditionally close, and the University is now in a position to play an increasingly important role in building bridges between East and West. Former relations with the universities in Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia etc have been re-established. The experience and knowledge of our colleagues in these institutions enrich the ideas and discussions going on in the field of higher education.
Many systems of higher education, at least in Europe, have undergone significant changes in recent years. International exchanges and the increasing need to harmonise educational systems greatly support reforms in national systems of higher education. The partial introduction of Bachelor and Master degrees in Germany has been perceived as one example of these effects.
Leipzig and its university exemplify the theme of this year’s conference because international changes have caused – and are causing – significant reforms in Germany and its system of higher education.
Willkommen in Leipzig!
For more information on the EAIE conference, you are warmly invited to visit the EAIE website, http://www.eaie.org. See also the article "Re-forming higher education: the international way" elsewhere in this publication.
A Conference Invitation containing a registration form and detailed programme information will be distributed in August 2000. If you do not normally receive information from the EAIE, and would like to be added to the EAIE mailing list, please contact the EAIE Secretariat at the address below.
PO Box 11189
1001 GD Amsterdam
tel +31-20-525 4999
fax +31-20-525 4998