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Die Leibniz Universität Hannover hat einen neuen Präsidenten

Leibniz Universität Hannover has a new President

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Professor Dr. iur. Volker Epping officially assumes office

All change at the top of Leibniz Universität Hannover: Gabriele Heinen-Kljajić, Minister of Science and Culture in Lower Saxony named Professor Dr. iur. Volker Epping President of Leibniz Universität - initially for a period of six years - from 1 January 2015 until 31 December 2020. Developing scientific cooperation between the universities in the Braunschweig/Hannover region will be a central project during the time in office of the new President, the Minister stated. She reminded listeners that the Niedersachsen Institutes of Technology had not achieved the objectives it set itself. "Our motto can now no longer be to carry on the way we are or go back to the beginning, but rather let us get it done." The Minister attested outgoing President Professor Dr.-Ing. Erich Barke had been hugely successful in preparing the university for national and international competition: "You can look back on your period in office with pride", the Minister said.

At the beginning of June last year the Senate and the University Council confirmed in a unanimous vote their decision in favour of Volker Epping assuming the new office. In doing so, the members of the Senate and the University Council followed the recommendation of the selection committee who had proposed Volker Epping as the sole candidate.

Today, Friday 9 January 2015, Professor Epping officially received the Chain of Office of the President from the hands of his predecessor Professor Dr.-Ing. Erich Barke. He wished the new President and his team all the best for the future - with heart and mind, said Erich Barke. "I will do everything in my power to serve the best interests of our university", promised Professor Epping in his address upon assuming office. During his time in office his predecessor succeeded in binding the faculties more closely together and strengthening a feeling of togetherness at Leibniz Universität. "It is no longer important if a colleague is an engineer, a natural scientist or a scholar of humanities to achieve a good partnership and good understanding. The curiosity to hear how the other faculties and disciplines think, what the other disciplines achieve has grown. A sense of awareness has been created that only all of us together will be able to lead this university into a good future", the new President stated.

It is true that he is a lawyer by profession; however, he is now President of the whole university consisting of nine faculties and the Leibniz Research School, which enjoys broadly the same status as the faculties. "My attention will now be focussed on Leibniz Universität in its entirety", he continued. Passing on the Chain of Office is both a visible expression of the continuation of the university as an institution and also the office of President. However, a President is not powerful because he has been invested with formal rights. "A President must draw more on his personality and less on his office to assert his authority and exercise his power of persuasiveness", Professor Epping emphasised.

As President he will have to attend to numerous tasks, which it is possible to divide into three central fields of activity: integration, representation as well as strategy and guidance. "I do not just see the university as a unit, but rather I wish to actively lead this unit by example", explained Professor Epping and announced that he wished to represent the interests of the university both internally and externally in the political arena, in society and the business world: "After all, as President I am both the helmsman and motor driving the necessary changes in terms of optimising and strategic orientation of our university, which of course should be supported by the majority of its members."

Afterwards at the New Year's reception of Leibniz Universität, Professor Epping presented several of his objectives for the coming years. The President wishes to place particular emphasis on strengthening the research profile of the university. The existing focus of research in the fields of mechanical engineering, physics as well as biomedical engineering are to be broadened still further; however, that depends on the financial support of political policy makers. "As an example I wish to - quite consciously - single out three research building projects: first and foremost the mechanical engineering campus that is due to be built in Garbsen, next to that the research building HITec whose foundation stone is due to be laid this January and - to name one more example - the NIFE research building", the President said.

It was the state that wanted to relocate the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering to Garbsen and it is the state's responsibility to ensure it is completed. "We are building without any frills, reduced to an absolute minimum. Nevertheless, the technical demands are huge and, as a consequence, the volume of costs high." However, the basic funding level for the university has been frozen since 2005 and as a result finances are more than just at breaking point, in particular as far as energy costs and building maintenance are concerned. "We are being forced to live above our means, and we meet the previously stated costs by not filling vacant positions with personnel. But we are paying the price for these savings with our most valuable assets: clever and talented people. We must escape from this form of self-cannibalisation that has been imposed on us!", demanded Volker Epping emphatically.

Furthermore, together with the Hannover Institute of Technology (HITec) Leibniz Universität is planning an interdisciplinary research infrastructure for quantum technologies. In addition to carrying out basic research in the field of physics in cooperation with the geodetic and engineering sciences, HITec also stands for an interdisciplinary approach to research and study as embodied by the spirit of Leibniz, Professor Epping stated.

As a final example for innovative research building the President named the Lower Saxony Centre for Biomedical Engineering, Implant Research and Development. Bio-medicine and biomedical engineering underscore a third nationally and internationally visible research focus of the university. This subject area is the nucleus of that with which the research region Braunschweig/Hannover will be applying for funds in the next round of the excellence initiative 2017. However, apart from the excellence initiative the university should not lose sight of other avenues of support in order to be able to place new research topics before the appropriate third-party donors.

However, Professor Epping emphasised that leading individual research, which often receives scant regard in the debate on the need to focus resources, is of fundamental importance. "It is the basis for interdisciplinary success and inspiration. And, even if it is not included in large research networks, it continues to remain important for our university: We are - I like using this expression - total service providers". That means that beyond interdisciplinary cooperation we depend on excellent researchers and teachers - and we have them already!"

Another objective is to strengthen teacher training, declared Professor Epping. 6000 students are currently enrolled in teacher training courses at Leibniz Universität. "Consequently, Hannover must not only be the foremost location for training teachers for grammar schools, but also for related areas of research, the President emphasised. The field of reflection on science should also become much more visible in future. The question, amongst others, at the centre of attention is what effect does science have on society and, vice versa, society on science.

Volker Epping emphasised raising awareness of the teaching profile as the third objective: "We are only a university because we have students." Leading research and excellent academic training must go hand in hand. As a consequence, conditions for studying need to be improved to achieve optimum external boundary conditions for training based on science.

The conditions for research and training in Hannover are excellent in almost all fields and this fact needs to be made clear to the outside world. Not many people are aware of just what a treasure Leibniz Universität represents. "Together with you I will attempt to make everybody aware of the importance of the university, above all for the city", said Professor Epping stating his fourth objective. That also includes networking with business. It should be in the interests of each and every company to become active as soon as possible and support the qualified talent being trained at the university. An appropriate instrument is available to them in the form of the Germany Scholarship.

Supporting young talent is a further priority of his work, the President explained further: "My fifth objective, under the banner of human resources development, includes above all the doctoral stage, precisely to acquire additional scientific allowances, but also to attract promising young brains. As presidential board we have placed opening a career path as early as possible for precisely this group of people on a to-do list." That is the only approach to guarantee our competitiveness in particular with regard to the states in the south of Germany. As the competition for the best brains is no longer a national but also an international competition, the internationalisation of Leibniz Universität is his sixth objective, emphasised Professor Epping. As a consequence, the presidential board has been increased to include two further areas of responsibility with focus on "human resources development" and "international affairs".

At the conclusion of his speech the new President introduced his team. The office of Vice President for Teaching and Academic Programmes will remain in the hands of Professor Dr. Elfriede Billmann-Mahecha. Dr. Christoph Strutz will also remain a full-time member of the presidential board. Professor Dr. Joachim Escher from the Institute of Applied Mathematics is responsible for appointment issues, human resources development and continuing education. Following her appointment, his colleague Professor Dr.-Ing. Monika Sester from the Institute of Cartography and Geoinformatics will take over responsibility for international affairs. Professor Dr.-Ing. Peter Wriggers from the Institute of Continuum Mechanics will be Vice President for Research.

As one of his first acts in his new office, Professor Epping then bestowed Professor Christian Werthmann from the Faculty of Architecture and Landscape Sciences with the Excellent Lecture Award.

Notes for Editor

For more information, please contact Mechtild Freiin v. Münchhausen, Head of Communications and Marketing and spokesperson of Leibniz Universität Hannover, on +49 511 762 5342 or send an e-mail to kommunikation@uni-hannover.de.