Jacobs University: The first ten years

Jacobs University's first honorary doctor Reimar Lüst with President Joachim Treusch

On September 17, 2011, Jacobs University celebrated its 10th anniversary. Among the 1,500 invited guests were 250 Jacobs Alumni from all over the world as well as numerous representatives from the fields of science, politics and business. After a very successful first decade, Bremen’s international private university has many reasons to celebrate: The student body with currently 1,300 students from 110 nations has increased tenfold since the university’s opening; the number of study programs with more than 40 has tripled and the university has established itself as an internationally successful research institution. A special highlight of the anniversary festivities was a 1 Million Euro “Birthday-Donation” from Bremen’s business community.

September 17, 2011

“When our university – International University Bremen, as it was called back then – was opened ten years ago, it was the most ambitious experiment Germany’s system of higher education had every seen. It was therefore viewed with a high degree of skepticism. However, within just one decade Jacobs University was able to prove that the vision of its founding fathers was more than just an experiment,” said Jacobs University President Joachim Treusch.

“The concept of a private top level university which presents young people from all over the world with the chance to receive a first-class education on a unique multicultural campus has become a success story. Jacobs University owes this success to the visionary power of its founders, to the political courage of the leaders of Bremen as well as to the extraordinary commitment of its benefactors, faculty and staff, which have made the vision come to life over the past ten years. The ‘special ingredient’, which has made the Jacobs’ recipe for success so outstanding, are our talented and committed students, who continue to amaze us with their creativity and their incredible will to achieve,” Treusch continued. “It is now our job to ensure that Jacobs University will continue to secure and expand its already significant position in the international world of higher education and research,” the Jacobs University president said.

Ten years ago, in September 2001, Jacobs University officially welcomed its first 133 students
hailing from 43 nations to its Bremen campus. This was the starting point for a unique university which was, until then, unheard of in all of Europe: an international, English-language university modeled on the Anglo-American system, which selects its students from all around the world – only 25 % are from Germany – strictly according to their academic potential. A university, which is also committed to a standard of excellence in research and combines the natural and social sciences, engineering, and the humanities in a modern, transdisciplinary approach in research as well as in teaching.

The ambitious enterprise “International University Bremen” was backed from the very beginning by Bremen’s government, which supported the young university with an initial funding of 110 Million Euro and subsidized infrastructure projects on campus. Five years later, the Swiss Jacobs Foundation became the university’s most important patron when it invested the sum of 200 Million Euro. The University honored this extraordinary donation by changing its name to Jacobs University.

Today, Jacobs University can look back on an extremely successful first decade: The university’s student body with currently 1,300 students from 110 nations has increased tenfold since its opening. The number of study programs with more than 40 has tripled and the university has established itself as an internationally successful research institution, which receives more than 50 % of the German Research Foundation’s (DFG) third-party funds procured by Germany’s more than 100 private universities.

Jacobs University’s study programs regularly achieve top marks in Germany’s most prestigious university ranking by the Center of Higher Education (CHE), not least because of the university’s excellent facilities and its outstanding academic support system – the professor-student-ratio is 1:10. The first-rate study conditions are mirrored by an outstanding passing rate: 90-95 % of all candidates graduate every year. Nine out of ten graduates successfully enter the workforce or a graduate school within three months of finishing their degree. By now, about 2.200 Jacobs-Alumni have carried their knowledge and the experiences they have made in Bremen out into the world. The university’s success and its unique multicultural campus community have turned Jacobs University into a magnet for talented young academics – in Germany and well beyond its borders: At the beginning of the academic year 2011/2012, the average final grade of the German students was 1,4 – 1,0 being the highest grade possible out of 5. Three quarters of the foreign freshmen were straight A-Students.

The positive „Jacobs University effect“ for Bremen as a center of higher education is proven by the quota of first time graduates, which calculates the real number of graduates completing their first university degree, and the percentage of foreign graduating students. Since the opening of Jacobs University, the federal state of Bremen has become the frontrunner of all of the German states for these two parameters: The quota of first time graduates doubled to 47 %; with 16 % the portion of international students graduating in Bremen is twice as high as the national average. Especially the latter number proves Jacobs University’s potential as a “Brain-Gain Factor” for Bremen and the entire region.

In recognition of its contribution to Bremen’s positive development, Otto Lamotte, the president of the Bremen Chamber of Commerce, presented Jacobs University with a special birthday gift in the name of Bremen’s business community: A donation of 1 Million Euros. “Here in Bremen and in the entire northwestern region of Germany, Jacobs University is a symbol for the power and the strength, which civil society can muster. All of our hopes and dreams, which we pinned on this new university a decade ago have come to pass: We now know that Jacobs University is the perfect addition to our economic region. And we firmly believe that this model of excellence will go on for many a decade more,” stated Lamotte during a festive dinner at Bremen’s city hall on the night before the anniversary celebrations.

On September 17, more than 1,500 guests came to the main anniversary festivities. Apart from numerous representatives from the fields of science, politics and business, almost 250 Jacobs alumni had traveled to Bremen from all around the world. The ceremony, hosted by Ranga Yogeshwar and Jacobs alumna Judith Ahues, honored the founding and the early years of Jacobs University. Founding personalities, like Fritz Schaumann, the first president of the university, Bernd Hockemeyer, member of the first Board of Governors and Malcom Gillis, former president of Rice University, which was one of the founding institutions of International University Bremen, as well as professors, students and employees shared their experiences of Jacobs’ pioneer era.

During the following panel discussion, Christian Jacobs, head of the Jacobs Foundation, the German Research Foundation’s secretary general Dorothee Dzwonnek, Bremen’s mayor and senator of finance Karoline Linnert, Auma Obama, project coordinator for the CARE-International Initiative „Sports for Social Change“, as well as Ingo Kramer, head of the Nordmetall Employers’ Association and current member of the Jacobs University Board of Governors, focused on the future of Jacobs University.

One of the highlights of the ceremony was the bestowal of Jacobs University’s first honorary doctorate on astrophysicist Reimar Lüst for his outstanding achievements in space research as well as his successes as science manager. The award further recognizes Lüst’s key role in the planning and development of Jacobs University: As chairman of the planning committee and the Founding Board of Governors Lüst was pivotal in shaping the university’s unique profile.

Jacobs’ alumni community had also prepared a “birthday present” for their alma mater: In the name of the Classes of 2004 and 2005, alumni president Petar Perkovic presented an official deed for two scholarships. “We want to make a contribution so that as many bright young minds as possible can keep on coming to Bremen from all over the world to become world citizens on this campus – just like we did,” said Perkovic. The 29-year-old Serb is a member of the class of 2004 and holds the position of Global Communications Manager, Human Resources at the Bremen-based Bremer global corporation Mars.


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