Theresia Bauer: Excellent education and research – Tertiary education in Baden-Württemberg

Baden-Württemberg has the strongest innovative power in Europe. Fully 4.6 per cent of its gross domestic product is in­­vested in research and development, which corresponds to 16.9 billion euros annually. Four of Germany’s nine best universities are in Baden-Württemberg and more than 80 extra-mural research facilities work with the universities and institutes of tech­­nology in the region. Baden-Württemberg subsidises major fields of research in sci­­ence and engineering as well as in the humanities and social sciences.

Motor vehicles, airships, emails, anti-block­­ing systems and SAP software – many pioneer­­ing developments have been made in Baden-Württemberg, which also explains why Baden-Württemberg is one of Germany’s most economically prosper­­ous states. Global players such as Daimler, Bosch and SAP have their head offices here and, besides motor vehicle manufacturing, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering are some of the most im­­por­­tant sectors of the state’s economy.


The technological lead of Baden-Würt­tem­­berg’s economy is closely linked to its long scientific tradition. The Heidelberg uni­­ver­­sity is Germany’s oldest and nu­­mer­­ous No­bel Prize winners either come from this state or have worked here. Besides novelist Hermann Hesse, Professor Dr. Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, Professor Dr. Georges Koehler, Professor Dr. Bert Sakmann, Professor Dr. Klaus von Klitzing and Pro­­fessor Dr. Harald zur Hausen must be men­­tioned. Baden-Württemberg has a dense network of very good and, in some cases, world-renowned universities and institutes of technology with a total of 287,500 students – nine universities, six teachers’ train­­ing colleges, 23 univer­­sities of applied sci­­ences, Baden-Würt­tem­berg Cooperative State University (DHBW) with its eight main locations and four branch cam­­puses and eleven colleg­es and academies of art and music, design and film. They all represent the great vari­­ety in the arts and the sciences. Along with the state tertiary educational institutes, there are 24 private institutions.

Baden-Württemberg’s universities of ap­­plied sciences are major guarantors of the highest quality in teaching and re­­search and of the successful transfer of knowledge to so­­ci­­ety and commerce. With the collabora­tion of the private commer­cial sector it is their task to find scientific an­­swers to the major questions of the future. They provide new ideas for the development of our common wealth and supply major stimuli for inno­­va­­tion such as ensuring sustainable mobility or for coping with climate change through the use of clean, energy-saving technologies.

The universities combine research, teach­­ing, study and continued education and promote and develop the sciences, and thus the students benefit from the close links between research and teaching.
The teachers’ training colleges teach and do research at a high academic level for teaching practice and the teaching profession. And the institutes of technology offer excellent practically oriented degree courses in technology, commerce, social sciences and design.

With their degree courses and R&D ca­­pacity, institutes of technology are an essential source of inspiration for their regional economies, as is the Dual College, which combines the advantages of a uni­­versity education with those of vocational training in the fields of commerce, tech­­nol­­ogy and socially oriented occupations. Stu­­dents at the Dual College are simultane­ously apprentices/trainees in a company or a social welfare institution, where they spend half the period of their degree course.

The high quality of tertiary educational institutions in Baden-Württemberg is visi­­ble in many rankings and not least in the results of the Excellence Initiative. In this purely scientifically led process, 1.9 billion euros have been awarded to universities in Germany so far. The prizes subsidise clusters of excellence, gra­­duate schools and future concepts for further develop­ment of the universities.


The title of “elite university” was also linked with successful future concepts. Baden-Württem­berg was the most successful state in the excellence ­initiative. Of the nine elite universities in Germany, four are in Baden-Württemberg: Freiburg, Heidelberg, Karls­ruhe und Constance, and the state also has seven excellence clusters and nine graduate schools.

Baden-Württemberg supports its tertiary educational institutions with guaranteed basic support of over two billion euros annually; this is added to by external fund­­ing totalling 574 million euros. With its excellent universities, which are highly placed in many rankings, and numerous companies which are particularly heavily involved in research and development, Baden-Württemberg has an excellent re­­search scene in which scientific and com­­mercial interests meet. For example, a large number of Germany’s major national research centres are represented here: twelve of a total of 80 Max Planck Insti­­tutes and 14 Fraunhofer Institutes are based in Baden-Württemberg. A total of 80 non-university research facilities are based here.


The large number of clusters and networks in Baden-Württemberg are of great advantage for the transfer of knowledge and technology and are based in strategically important research and technology fields such as the life sciences, nano and micro-systems technologies, information and communications technology, new materials, air and space travel as well as mobility, energy and environmental research. Cooperation be­­tween universities, non-university
re­­search cen­­tres and the commercial sec­­tor is supported by Baden-Württem­berg’s State Ministry of Science. The top clusters are models of cooperation. These emerged from a nationwide competition which sup­­ports a total of ten clusters. Three initi­a­tives from Baden-Württemberg reached the top in the competition: MicroTEc Süd­­west (micro-systems technology), BioRN (bio-technology) and Forum Organic Elec­­tronics (optical technologies). These com­­pa­nies perform core work both in science and in business in their respective industry sectors.

If the state and the private sector invest jointly in knowledge and insight, we will find new answers to the questions of the future. To do this we need the expertise of all intellectual disciplines – science, engineering, the humanities and the so­­cial sciences. All these have the potential for socially and commercially relevant knowledge and deserve our support. The words of Benjamin Franklin are indeed relevant: “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

Theresia-Bauer_Quelle-Joachim-Röttgers-MWK_jr_110523_5204-KopieThe author studied political science, econom­ics and German language and literature. She was a spokesperson for political education at the Society for Political Ecology from 1993 to 1995 and then was appointed general man­­ager of the Heinrich Böll Foundation Baden-Würt­tem­berg. She has been a member of the Baden-Würt­tem­berg state legislature since 2001. Theresia Bauer has been Baden-Würt­­tem­­berg’s State Minister of Science, Research and Art since 12 May 2011.