Free University of Berlin
The Free University of Berlin
: Freie Universität Berlin
, often abbreviated as FU Berlin
or simply FU
) is a public research university
. The Free University of Berlin is one of eleven elite German research universities in the German Universities Excellence Initiative
. Free University of Berlin is consistently ranked among Germany's top ten universities overall, with particular strengths in the arts & humanities
followed by the social sciences
internationally. It is recognised as a leading university in the international university tables.
Free University of Berlin
Free University of Berlin was established by students and scholars on 4 December 1948. The foundation is strongly connected to the beginning of the Cold War
period. The University of Berlin
was located in the former Soviet sector of Berlin
and was granted permission to continue teaching by the Soviet Military Administration in Germany
(SMAD) in January 1946. The universities were increasingly influenced by Communism
as they were ground for the political disputes of the postwar period. This led to protests by students critical of the prevailing system. Between 1945 and 1948, more than 18 students were arrested or persecuted, some even executed by the Soviet secret police (NKVD)
Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry in 1911. Today, the Hahn-Meitner building houses the Institute for Biochemistry, where nuclear fission
At the end of 1947, first students demanded a university free from political influence. The climax of the protests was reached on 23 April 1948: after three students were expelled from the university without a trial, about 2,000 students protested at the Hotel Esplanade
By the end of April, the governor of the United States ArmyLucius D. Clay
gave the order to legally check for the formation of a new university in the western sectors. On 19 June 1948, the "preparatory committee for establishing a free university"
consisting of politicians, professors, administrative staff members and students, met. With a manifesto
titled "Request for establishing a free university in Berlin"
, the committee appealed to the public for support.
The municipal authorities of Berlin granted the foundation of a free university and requested the opening for the coming winter semester
1948/49. Meanwhile, the students committee in the German Democratic Republic
protested against the formation, the GDR
described the new university as the "so-called free university" in official documents until the fall of the Berlin Wall
The former Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Biology. Today, it houses the Department of Law
The council-manager government
accepted the by-law
on 4 November 1948. The by-law achieved prominence under its alias "the Berlin model"
: The university was founded as a statutory corporation
(Körperschaft des öffentlichen Rechts
) and was not directly subjected to the state, as it was controlled by a supervisory board consisting of six representatives of the state of Berlin
, three representatives of the university and students. This form was unique in Germany at that time, as the students had much more influence on the system than before. But until the 1970s, the involvement of the students in the committees was slowly cut back while adapting to the model of the western German universities in order to be fully recognized as an equivalent university.
John F. Kennedy
, 1963: This school [...] must be interested in turning out citizens of the world, men who comprehend the difficult, sensitive tasks that lie before us as free men and women, and men who are willing to commit their energies to the advancement of a free society.
By 1949, Free University had registered 4,946 students. Until the construction of the Berlin Wall
in 1961, many students came from the soviet sector, often supported through the "Währungsstipendium"
of the senate.
In the late 1960s, Free University of Berlin was one of the main scenes of the German student movement of 68
as a reaction to the global student protests
during that time. After the assassination of student Benno Ohnesorg
and the attempt on the life of Rudi Dutschke
, protests quickly escalated to violence throughout Germany. The events of the 68-movement
provided the impulse for more openness, equality, and democracy in German society.
During the 1970s and the 1980s, the university became a "Massenuniversität"
) with 50,298 registered students in 1983. After reunification
, Free University of Berlin was the second-largest university in Germany (after the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
) with 62,072 students in the winter term of 1991/92. Shortly thereafter, the senate of Berlin
decided to drastically reduce enrollment until 2003, the number of students shrank to 43,885 in the winter term of 2002/03.
Since 2000, the Free University of Berlin has revamped itself. The university's research performance increased markedly with regard to the number of graduates, PhDs granted, and publications.
Main campus in Dahlem
Since 2003, the FU Berlin has been regrouping its research capacities into interdisciplinary research focus areas called clusters. Due to financial cutbacks and restructuring of medical schools in the same year, the medical institutions of Free University of Berlin and the Humboldt University
merged to create a joint department, the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
The year 2007 was another crucial year for the Free University of Berlin as it was the university with the most approved funding applications in the German Universities Excellence Initiative
, and it is now one of nine elite German universities to receive funding for its future development strategy. In the same year, Free University of Berlin dedicated a monument to the founding students who were murdered during the protests. The university presents its Freedom Award to personalities who have made a special contribution toward the cause of freedom.
Based on its founding tradition, the Free University of Berlin seal to this day bears the Latin terms for Truth, Justice, and Liberty. The designer of the seal was art historian and former president of the Free University of Berlin, Edwin Redslob
Main entry of the Campus Dahlem
Most of the facilities of Free University of Berlin are located in the residential garden district of Dahlem
in southwestern Berlin. Around the beginning of the 20th century, Dahlem was established as a center for research of the highest caliber. Academic activity in Dahlem was supported by Friedrich Althoff, Ministerial Director in the Prussian
Ministry of Culture, who initially proposed the foundation of a "German Oxford"
The first new buildings housed government science agencies and new research institutes of the University of Berlin. The Kaiser Wilhelm Society
– forerunner of the present-day Max Planck Society
– was founded in 1911 and established several institutes in Dahlem.
View of the southern Campus Dahlem from the canteen "Mensa I"
A dynamic group of researchers carried out pioneering research resulting in numerous Nobel Prizes. Since its foundation, Free University of Berlin has been using buildings formerly belonging to the Kaiser Wilhelm Society
and, in addition, has added numerous architecturally innovative buildings.
Free University of Berlin central campus consists of building ensembles within walking distance of each other (about 1.5 km radius). The planners oriented themselves along the type of campus found in the United States
– a novelty in post-war Germany. The first independent structure to be completed on campus was the Henry Ford
building, funded by the Ford Foundation
. To that point, the university was housed in several older structures around the neighborhood, including the Otto Hahn
building, which houses the Department of Biochemistry
to this day. Thanks to further donations from the United States, Free University of Berlin was able to construct several new central building complexes including the Benjamin Franklin university clinic complex.
The largest single complex of university buildings is the Rost- und Silberlaube
, which translates roughly to the "Rust and Silver Lodges". This complex consists of a series of interlinked structures corresponding to either a deep bronze (hence, "rust") or shiny white ("silver") hue, surrounding a variety of leafy courtyards. It has been complemented in 2005 by a new centerpiece, the brain-shaped Philological Library
, designed by British architect Lord Norman Foster
Botanical Garden: Tropical Greenhouse
With 43 ha and around 22,000 species of plants, the botanical garden of the FU
in the east of Dahlem is one of the biggest of its kind.
The campus in Lankwitz
, formerly part of a teacher training college, is now home to the department of earth sciences
and a part of the university archives. Until their move to Dahlem in 2008, the Institute for Media and Communication Studies
was located there.
Most of the divisions of the Department of Veterinary Medicine
are based in Düppel
. It is 2 km southwest of the main campus and consists of numerous clinics and institutes, amongst them a small animal clinic, a clinic for horses and an institute of poultry diseases
Campus Benjamin Franklin
Since the formation of the FU in 1948, it has used public hospitals as part of the medical faculty. Between 1959 and 1969, the "Steglitz Clinic", about 3 km southeast of Dahlem, was built with large financial supports of the United States. The medical center became one of the biggest European medical establishments unifying all institutes, clinics and lecture halls. In honor of the support by the United States, the clinic was renamed "University Clinic Benjamin Franklin". In 1994, it consists of 36 scientific institutes and 1,200 hospital beds. After the merger in 2003, it became part of the Charité medical school
During the 1960s, a student village with 27 buildings was constructed near Schlachtensee
lake serving as housing opportunities for students.
Although the UB is generally a lending library
, some smaller libraries of the departments are so called Präsenzbibliotheken
, where students are only able to read books or journals. Since 2005, the FU creates a new library with about 12,250 m2
of usable space. It is planned to include all libraries of the natural science
departments and the smaller institutes in the humanities
(e.g. Egyptology). The projected costs are around 51 million euros
. Construction work started in March 2012 with plans on finishing at the end of 2014.
Organisation and governance
The executive board consists of the president (Prof. Dr. Günter M. Ziegler
), an executive vice president (Prof. Dr. Klaus Hoffmann-Holland) and three other vice presidents, as well as the Director of Administration and Finance (Dr.-Ing. Andrea Bör). There are also supporting offices for Public Affairs and the General Counsel for legal affairs.
University president's office
Stairway to the president's office
There are currently eight central service institutions (ZE) of the FU:
- Botanical Garden Berlin and Botanical Museum Berlin
- Center for Academic Advising, Career and Counselling Services
- Center for Continuing Studies
- Center for Recreational Sports
- Center for the Promotion of Woman's and Gender Studies
- Computing Services (ZEDAT)
- Language Center
- Academic library
("Institut für Schulqualität der Länder Berlin und Brandenburg", Institute for Quality of Schools in Berlin and Brandenburg
) is an independent facility on the campus. It consults local schools and the senate to achieve and develop a high standard of school quality in Berlin
and closely cooperates with the Department of Education and Psychology
of the FU.
With 12 departments
(FB) and three interdisciplinary central institutes, the university can be seen as an universitas litterarum
(a traditional university where studies in all basic sciences is possible).
School of Business and Economics
The department is split into three different institutes: The Institute of Biology
, which specializes primarily in molecular botany, microbiology
, ecological processes and biodiversity
, the Institute of Chemistry and Biochemistry
, where research is focused on structural formation, function and chemical reactivity
/macromolecular synthesis and molecular, medical and structural biochemistry
and the Institute of Pharmacy
, the largest pharmaceutical training facility in Germany.
- Department of Earth Sciences
- The department is divided into the Institute of Geographical Sciences, the Institute of Geological Sciences and the Institute of Meteorology. Research focuses mainly on the interactive physical, chemical, and biological processes taking place within the Earth, on the Earth's surface, and the Earth's atmosphere, as well as on the interactions between humans and the environment.
- Since 1954, the Institute of Meteorology is the institution that names the low and high pressure systems in central Europe, comparably to the National Weather Service in the US.
- Department of History and Cultural Studies, which consists of eight subunits, the Friedrich Meinecke Institute of History, the Art History Department, the Department of Ancient Studies, the Department of East Asia and the Middle East, the Institute of Jewish Studies, the Seminar for Catholic Theology, the Institute of Comparative Ethics and the Institute for the Scientific Study of Religion
- Department of Law
- School of Business and Economics, which contains two academic units
- Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
- The department consists of the Institute of Mathematics and the Institute of Computer Science. The department is the only one in the Berlin-Brandenburg region offering degree programs in Bioinformatics. Research activities of the Institute of Mathematics focus on numerical mathematics, algebra, analysis, discrete mathematics and geometry, cooperating with the Institute of Computer Science, which focuses in the fields of artificial intelligence, robotics, scientific computing, telematics and information processing in neural and computer networks.
- The "FU-Fighters", a team of scientists and students of the Institute of Computer Science developing autonomous football-playing robots, were very successful in the international RoboCup competition, placing second in 1999, 2000 and 2003. They won in the "smallsize" league in 2004 and 2005. Since 2006, the "FUmanoids" team are competing in the category "humanoid kidsize" and placed second in the 2009 and 2010 RoboCup, winning the "Technical Challenge" in 2010.
- Department of Education and Psychology
- The Department of Education consists of 19 subdivisions and lies its emphasis in research on the anthropology of education, empirical research on education, schooling, and classroom instruction, school development research and intercultural education studies.
- The Department of Psychology is split into 16 subunits with a wide spectrum of research.
- Department of Philosophy and Humanities
The department contains the Institute of Philosophy, the Institute of Greek and Latin Languages and Literatures, the Peter Szondi Institute of Comparative Literature, the Institute of German and Dutch Languages and Literatures, the Institute of Romance Languages and Literatures, the Institute of English Language and Literature, the Institute of Theater Studies and the Institute of Arts and Media Management.
- Department of Physics
- Department of Political and Social Science
- The Otto-Suhr-Institute for Political Science is the biggest political-science institution in Germany.
- Divided into nine units, research at the Institute of Media and Communication Studies focuses on media change, uncertainty, crisis, and risk communication and political communication and transformation of the public sphere.
- Institute of Sociology and the Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology
- Medical School Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
- Department of Veterinary Medicine
The department is one of five sites in Germany offering veterinary education and training and contains 20 academic units. The veterinary research performed within the department traditionally lies in emphasis especially on food safety and product quality in foods from animal sources.
Despite the variety of subjects, apart from computer science
, studies in the field of engineering can only be done at the Technical University
or universities of applied science (Fachhochschulen)
Interdisciplinary Central Institutes
- John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies
- Institute for East European Studies
- Institute for Latin American Studies
With 33,000 applicants for the undergraduate programs (Bachelor
) in 2013, admissions at Free University of Berlin remain highly competitive as the university only offers about 4,300 places each year.
Due to the high numbers of applicants, most undergraduate programs at Free University of Berlin have limitations determined through the NC
. The general deadline for students directly from high school applying to limited programs in the coming winter semester is 15 July every year at all universities in Germany.
In some cases (especially Medicine and Psychology
), the NC every year is as high as 1.0 (see Grades in Germany and Abitur
). Critical applicants which just scored slightly below the NC
can be invited to an selective interview or an entry exam, depending on the department/faculty. Applicants at Charité medical school
who do not directly fulfill the NC
-criteria have to pass an entry exam, which covers the basic fields of Mathematics, Biology
in addition to passing a selective interview. Both results are then added to the Abitur
grade. The final decision depends on the results of the competitors.
Teaching and learning
Free University of Berlin operates on a semester calendar where the winter term begins on 1 October and ends on 31 March. The exact same model can be found at almost every university in Germany. The time where lectures are being held varies each year, normally beginning around mid-October and ending as early as mid-February. Free University of Berlin offers a broad spectrum of subjects in over 190 degree programs. A speciality of the FU is the possibility to study a vast number of "small subjects" (e.g. theater
and film studies
, Byzantine studies
, Jewish studies
, Communication studies
) with a high level of specialization. Due to the Bologna process
, most of the undergraduate programs are now leading to the three-year Bachelor's degree
with 180 ECTS
. At Free University of Berlin, Bachelor programs are generally divided into three categories: a regular Bachelor called "Mono-Bachelor", a combined Bachelor ("Kombi-Bachelor") consisting of two fields of studies and a combined Bachelor with a teaching option. Besides the core subject(s), all students are required to complete a series of courses related to general professional skills (ABV).
Apart from the regular Master
's programs, there are a variety of international programs taught in English, especially in the life sciences
One of the courtyards in the Silberlaube
Free University of Berlin does not charge any tuition fees in the classical sense. Since 2003, public universities in Berlin introduced the model of semester contributions (Semesterbeiträge). It consists of an enrollment/re-registration fee, a contribution to the student union (Studentenwerk
), a contribution for the student government and the fee for the semester ticket (public transportation pass) for the current semester. The fees for the semester ticket is defined by a contract with the local transportation company, the Verkehrsverbund Berlin-Brandenburg
and allows students to move freely in the ABC zones of Berlin. In the winter semester of 2013/14, students are required to pay €285.83 in total.
Since 2011, Free University of Berlin participates in the national "Germany Scholarship" program organized by the federal government, universities and numerous private companies. Highly talented and committed students can get €300 monthly.
- "Ancient World"
- "Art and Aesthetics"
- "Ecosystem Dynamics in Central Asia"
- "Efficient Mathematical modeling"
- "European Languages: Structures – Development – Comparison" (ZEUS)
- "Historical Anthropology"
- "Middle Ages – Renaissance – Early Modern Times"
- "Research on Teaching and Learning"
- "Social and Cultural History of the Middle East"
- "Berlin Center for European Studies (BEST)"
- "Berlin Center for Caspian Region Studies"
- "The Center for Modern Greece (Centrum Modernes Griechenland/CeMoG)"
- Berlin Mathematical School
- Graduate School of North American Studies
- Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies
- Muslim Cultures and Societies
- Berlin-Brandenburg School for Regenerative Therapies
- Berlin School of Integrative Oncology
- Graduate School of East Asian Studies
Clusters of Excellence
- Languages of Emotion
- Topoi – The Formation and Transformation of Space and Knowledge in Ancient Civilizations
- NeuroCure – Towards a Better Outcome of Neurological Disorders
- Unifying Concepts in Catalysis (together with the TU Berlin, HU Berlin and the University of Potsdam)
As part of the MATHEON – Mathematics for Key Technologies
of the DFG
, Free University of Berlin together with the TU Berlin
, HU Berlin
and the Zuse Institute Berlin
is working on mathematical modeling, simulation and optimization of real-world processes.
Twice every year, the "Dahlem Conferences" are held at Free University of Berlin. Over the course of one week, international renowned scientists and Nobel laureates come together and discuss current problems in all fields of studies.
The annual "Einstein Lectures Dahlem" hosted by the university and several external institutions since 2005 are dedicated to Albert Einstein
, who was the director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute
of Physics for more than 15 years. It is an colloquium which presents fields in science which were influenced by Einstein's thinking.
The 2020 British QS World University Rankings
ranked the university at 130th internationally, with a top program in Political Science at no.19.
The 2020 QS WUR for law and legal studies ranked the FU at 51-100th internationally, 17th best in Europe and 3rd in Germany.
In the QS WUR 2014, Free University of Berlin was placed at the 81–90 slot being the fifth German university ranked in the list.
In 2020, the American U.S. News & World Report
listed Free University of Berlin as the 111nd best in the world, climbing five positions. Being among the 100 best in the world in 18 areas of 28 ranked.
Free University of Berlin maintains wide-ranging international contacts to top universities and organizations which provide key impulses for research and teaching. In the 1950s, the Free University of Berlin had already established partnerships with leading universities in the United States such as the University of California System (including University of California, Berkeley
, University of California, Los Angeles
and University of California, Santa Cruz
), University of Chicago
, Cornell University
, Stanford University
(which also has a small campus within the FU
), Duke University
, Princeton University
, Yale University
, and Columbia University
, as well as with Western European universities like the University of Oxford
, University of Cambridge
, University College London
, University of Sussex
and École Normale Supérieure
The university is a founding member of the global educational center for the study of transnational law, the Centre for Transnational Legal Studies
in London. First contacts with universities in Eastern Europe were made in the 1970s. In the 1990s, links were in particular extended to include growing numbers of institutions in Canada (McGill University
, University of Alberta
, York University
), Eastern Europe, and the Far East (China: Peking University
, Fudan University
, Nanjing University
, Shanghai Jiao Tong University
; Japan: University of Tokyo
, Kyoto University
, Nagoya University
, Waseda University
; South Korea
: Korea University
, Yonsei University
, Seoul National University
). The newly established Centre for International Cooperation (CIC)
concentrates on identifying new strategic partners for international projects.
Today, Free University of Berlin has established over 400 partnerships in five continents, many of them as part of the European ERASMUS
program. Every year, about 600 visiting scientists contribute to the university teaching and research. For the grant programs in Germany, Free University of Berlin is one of the first choices both for the ERASMUS
and Tempus as well as for the Fulbright program and the international programs of the German Academic Exchange Service
An International Summer and Winter University (FUBiS) has been set up for international students offering (semi-)intensive German courses and numerous subject courses.
International Branch Offices
The Free University of Berlin operates foreign branch offices in New York City, Brussels
, Moscow, Beijing, Cairo
, São Paulo and New Delhi. The foreign branch offices work to expand upon cooperation partnerships already existing with universities in the country.
In April 2005, the Free University of Berlin, in conjunction with Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität
(LMU Munich), opened a joint representative office in New York. This German University Alliance,
located in German House, the seat of the German Consulate General and the German UN Mission, represents the interests of the two universities in the United States and Canada and works to increase the exchange of students and scientists.
In addition, Free University of Berlin, as the first German institution of higher education, founded an alumni- and fundraising organization, the Friends of the Freie Universität Berlin (FFUB) in New York. Since 2003 this alumni- and fundraising organization has maintained close contact to alumni and scientists of the Free University of Berlin in the U.S. and attempts to gain alumni and friends as sponsors, to strengthen the long-lasting trans-Atlantic relations. Some of the proceeds from these fundraising activities were contributed to the renovation of the Henry Ford Building.
In April 2006 Peking University
opened its first branch in Germany. Its objectives include the promotion of knowledge of Chinese culture, the cultivation of Chinese-German cooperation, and the spread of Chinese language. Duke University
in Durham, North Carolina, has a Berlin program (Duke in Berlin), that is held in cooperation with the Free University of Berlin and Humboldt University. The University of California System
organizes programs for American students in Berlin and Potsdam. At the Free University of Berlin the UC System maintains an office to attend to the needs of the exchange students from California.
Alumni of the Free University of Berlin include many scientists, philosophers and politicians, amongst them five Nobel Prize winners and 15 Leibniz laureates
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