Bielefeld University was founded in 1969 with an explicit research assignment and a mission to provide high-quality research-oriented teaching. With far-reaching aims to reform nearly every area of higher education, the University has made valuable contributions to educational reform in Germany and upholds its interdisciplinary, innovative and reform-oriented character to this day. The University encompasses 13 faculties covering a broad spectrum of disciplines in the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and technology. With more than 24,000 students in 115 degree courses and around 2,750 staff members (including 269 professors and lecturers as well as 1,390 academic staff) it is one of Germany’s medium-sized universities.
Since its foundation, Bielefeld University has been distinguished by an emphasis on interdisciplinarity and has been guided by the principle of its official motto “Transcending Boundaries – between disciplines and scientific cultures, between research and teaching, and between science and society”. The Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF), one of the most renowned institutes for advanced study in the world, is an institutional symbol of this cross-disciplinary excellence in research. In general, a culture of communication has evolved that is characterised by openness to new and unconventional ideas, and this has significantly contributed to the success of the University.
Bielefeld University’s research strengths are reflected regularly in rankings such as the German Research Foundation’s (DFG) Funding Atlas, the Centre for Higher Education’s CHE Research Ranking, and the Humboldt Ranking of popularity among international visiting academics. DFG’s Funding Atlas 2015 ranks Bielefeld University 8th in Germany relative to subject structure and the number of professors and 4th relative to the number of research staff. In the renowned Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2016), Bielefeld University is Number 22 among the top universities under 50 years old in the world, making it Number 4 in Germany.
For Bielefeld University, an international outlook is essential for top-level research and excellent teaching. One important goal in this context is to give research an even more intensive international orientation by systematically establishing international networks as well as strategic partnerships in its strategic research areas (e.g. with Princeton University in the “Mathematical World” and Osaka University in the “Socio-Technical World”). Bielefeld University is also internationalizing its campus: Researchers, academic teachers, and students from all over the world are an integral part of university life. And to attract even greater numbers of ambitious people from abroad, Bielefeld University is pursuing an international recruitment strategy. In-house programmes to support visiting academics along with comprehensive services for all the different international groups – such as a “Welcome Service” or special language courses – make an important contribution to promoting internationalization at Bielefeld University.
Complementary to its international orientation, Bielefeld University is well-connected within the city and the region, which are both characterised by medium-sized, family-run businesses. This is often helpful in arranging attractive dual-career packages. It maintains close relationships with local, often underestimated, “hidden champions” including global companies such as Bertelsmann, Miele, and Schüco International, and the von Bodelschwingh Foundation, one of the largest health care centres in Europe specialised in providing assistance to disabled people.