Demographic change, depopulation or industrial change influence rural structures. The trend of this process cannot be tackled with political measures alone. The Hochschule Neubrandenburg (Institute of Technology) has set itself the task of analysing and implementing development projects and concepts for rural areas.
If one looks at a map of where universities and institutes of technology are situated in Germany, one notices a large region in northeastern Germany where there are hardly any institutions of tertiary education at all between those on the Baltic coast and those in the Berlin region. It is this special location and situation that shapes the mission statement of the Hochschule Neubrandenburg. It has therefore selected and specifically expanded its main area of research of “Sustainable Structural Change and Conversion of Rural Regions” that integrates its four departments.
The structures typical of peripheral and rural regions are combined in the disciplines of Health and Nursing Care, Social Work, Education, Early Childhood Education, Agronomy and Nutrition, Landscape Architecture, Conservation & Land-Use Planning and Geomatics. For all these disciplines, demographic change in the region is the laboratory of their academic work. Thus, the university is situated right in the middle of its laboratory, so to speak.
The focus is on concepts and strategies for the long-term development of rural regions, which correspond to the planning, social and infrastructure based challenges of demographic change and basic economic conditions. A distinguishing feature is the interdisciplinary work and research where all faculties approximate the object of research from their own academic point of view and with their own specific methods. In the process, the emphasis is on theoretical and strategic aspects of opportunities for development in the region. Three examples are presented here briefly.
Since 2007, the Hochschule Neubrandenburg has mentored the model regional development project on demographic change and public services planning (MORO) in rural regions started by the former German Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development. Since 2011, the Hochschule Neubrandenburg has mentored the MORO “Regional Public Services Action Programme” throughout Germany on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure and the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Developement (BBSR). Its main tasks are to support and coordinate the work of the 21 model regions in preparing an individual regional strategy for retaining public services, organising the nationwide exchange of experience and the cross-section analysis of experience by the model regions. In the subsequent implementation phase of the action programme, the Hochschule Neubrandenburg will provide assistance in a similar role to the model regions until 2016 in implementing concrete pilot projects on public services issues. These processes will be scientifically documented and assessed. The results and experiences of these model projects are to be transferred to vocational training courses and a part-time master’s degree course in “Integrated Regional Public Services Planning”.
In the “Education Landscape Project UER (BL UER)” project, which focused on developing, and promoting and mentoring educational biographies and independent learning cultures, the Hochschule Neubrandenburg worked closely with the former Uecker-Randow (UER) county in the northeastern-most region of Germany, which today is part of the Vorpommern-Greifswald county following a local government reform. For the region, an integrated educational strategy is an important key to breaking through the downwards spiral resulting from marked economic structural weaknesses and demographic change. There was a great need for action in order to create an integrated, coherent and modern educational landscape which is central to solving the county’s economic and social problems. The central components in the continued development in the educational landscape are greater and palpable cooperation with neighbouring institutes of technology and the establishment of academic educational courses.
As a project partners of the BMBF project “Lernen vor Ort” (Local Learning), the Hochschule Neubrandenburg has explicitly contributed its competencies, which are concentrated on special regional features, and its existing activities in the region for the benefit of all parties in vocational training and expanding the educational landscape.
The aims of the Hochschule Neubrandenburg were manifold: to reinforce early childhood education and upbringing in connection with targeted advice to parents and families; to promote involvement and volunteer activities of senior citizens and utilising these specifically for child and youth welfare; to stimulate and promote an understanding and an interest in tertiary education, nature, the environment, technology and in social issues regarding children and young people in the region; and adapting educational and vocational training courses for concrete individual and company requirements in the region.
These goals were implemented, academically supported and analysed in five partial projects in close coordination and cooperation with the county authorities as part of the “Local Learning” project. In concrete terms, the project involved establishing an educational centre for parents, training day-care providers, an interactive and mobile learning museum, a regional tertiary education centre at the Stettiner Haff (a lagoon on the Baltic Coast next to the German-Polish border) and a network of senior citizens and voluntary network for childrens’ and young peoples’ welfare.
In cooperation with the two major housing companies in Neubrandenburg and the city administration, the university has been involved in model social development projects in the suburbs of Datzeberg and Oststadt since 2007. The focus is on activities for promoting civic involvement, social self-help and participation. In these practice teaching projects, the students are given the opportunity to familiarise themselves under realistic conditions with the peculiarities of social work intervention (focusing on network/community work and advice) and with their academic documentation and social work-based analyses in two local offices.
A large number of other stimuli, activities and projects are being operated or have been started by the Hochschule Neubrandenburg and impact the city and the region as a form of “community outreach”. An overview of these projects can be obtained from the university’s research database (http://www.forschungsdb.hs-nb.de/).
Prof. Dr. Mathias Grünwald is professor of Applied Zoology, Animal Ecology and Nature Conservation at the Hochschule Neubrandenburg. For many years, he was dean of the Faculty of Agronomy and Landscape Architecture before being appointed as pro-rector of Research, Knowledge Transfer and International Relations at the Hochschule Neubrandenburg in 2006.
Prof. Dr. Micha Teuscher is professor of Business Administration and Management Theory at the Hochschule Neubrandenburg; he has also been spokesman of the members’ group of the Institutes of Technology at the German Tertiary Rectors’ Conference and Conference Vice-President since 08/2010. From 2002 to 2004 he was pro-rector of Research, International Relations, Knowledge Transfer and Tertiary