“That would be an accolade!” – Dr. Manja Schüle, Minister for Science, Research, and Culture of the Federal State of Brandenburg, hopes that Potsdam will succeed in the Excellence Strategy of the German Federal Government
The University of Potsdam will submit three applications for the next round of the Excellence Strategy of the German Federal and State Governments (ExStra). Matthias Zimmermann interviewed Dr. Manja Schüle, Brandenburg’s Minister for Science, Research, and Culture about the chances of success and prospects for the future.
You are an alumna of the University of Potsdam yourself. What has happened in academic research since your time at the university?
A lot. The University of Potsdam has built a distinctive profile for itself: outstanding and innovative in teaching, strong in research, well established internationally, and focused on the creative and diverse support of young researchers. As a former student of the social sciences, I am aware of the passionate debate culture at this, at my university, which has had a strong influence on me. I consider the profiling of the University of Potsdam in particular, with the research focuses Cognitive Sciences, Data-Centric Sciences, Earth and Environmental Systems, and Evolutionary Systems Biology, to be a milestone. This has clearly provided a boost to third-party funding, which has virtually doubled compared to my time at the university. It is particularly encouraging that there is a focus on funding from the German Research Foundation (DFG), which has a prominent position in terms of research policy. In addition, the university has taken on other important tasks for the federal state in recent years and successfully expanded them, for example in teacher training.
Why is this the right time for one or more excellence clusters in Potsdam? Is the University of Potsdam now “mature” enough?
Absolutely. On the one hand, the University of Potsdam can draw on its experience in the last round of the Excellence Strategy, in which we also supported it financially. On the other hand, during the recent successful negotiations with the federal government and the other states on continuing the Excellence Strategy, I vehemently advocated for explicitly small and medium-sized universities to be able to benefit more in the future, for example by forming alliances. I would say that the conditions are ideal for another go.
In the current THE Ranking, the University of Potsdam is among the 250 best universities worldwide. Among young universities under 50 years of existence, it is even number 1 in Germany. What do you think makes the research strength of the University of Potsdam so special?
First of all, I would like to warmly congratulate the University of Potsdam on this success! Unfortunately, rankings are only one indicator for identifying research strength. The best proof of the University of Potsdam’s excellent research strength would be to bring one or more of the coveted clusters of excellence to Brandenburg in the upcoming ExStra round of calls for proposals – without question a major feat in view of the strong competition. And more successes at the DFG would complement this overall picture. Of course, we should not forget to perceive the university learning environment as an individual experience marked by scientific debate.
What would be the significance of one or more excellence clusters for the Potsdam research region and the state of Brandenburg?
That would be an accolade! Particularly because there is still an east-west divide in terms of excellence funding and thus the danger of a two-tier university landscape in the long term. This will hopefully change in the future with the continuation of the excellence strategy. If Potsdam and Brandenburg succeed in benefiting from the excellence funding in the future, that would make a real difference because of the finances, the strengthened profiling, strategic competences, and the better international visibility of the university.
Where do you see the University of Potsdam in five or ten years?
I would like to see a medium-sized top university that, in five to ten years, has succeeded in being even more visible internationally in individual disciplines. A university that skillfully uses the potentials of cooperation with Potsdam’s top research institutes to contribute to mastering the major social challenges. And I would like to see a university that continues to be a leader in regionally important tasks, such as teacher training, beyond Brandenburg.