Bonn · In person learning will come to the University of Bonn once again following a period of pandemic-induced distance learning. The academic year opened officially on Monday with a special ceremony.
In-person learning used to be the most normal thing in the world but due to the pandemic it became a distant dream. Now it will finally become a reality again in everyday university life. For a year and a half, students at the University of Bonn have not seen the inside of lecture halls and seminar rooms; for some of them, it even remains completely unfamiliar territory.
The official opening of the academic year on Monday, however, took place yesterday afternoon as a hybrid event. This concept, as University Rector Professor Michael Hoch confirmed in his welcoming speech, has obviously proven quite useful.
With the pandemic not over yet, the International Choir of the University and the Camerata Musicale were not allowed to perform live. Instead they provided some entertainment with a music video.
In terms of content, however, the coronavirus was not the focus of much of the ceremony. It was rather about the German science system in times of global upheaval - and the catastrophe in the Ahr Valley, which has affected many university members.
Professor Hoch drew attention to the university's strategy for excellence. "For us, it must continue to be about making the university fit for the international competition for the brightest minds," he said.
Basic research takes staying power, but pays off
But that's not so easy, as Professor Martin Stratmann, president of the Max Planck Society, pointed out in his keynote address and a subsequent panel discussion. His stark critique included: "Green genetic engineering is still met with mistrust, and AI research takes place primarily in U.S. and Chinese companies."
Germany's strength, meanwhile, is basic research - even if such research requires staying power. But then it pays off. "Four Nobel Prizes in just two years, that's something we can be proud of in Germany," Stratmann admitted.
In a second round of talks, the discussion revolved around the catastrophic storms that have affected not only the Ahr Valley but also other areas in the region.
Participants were Gerd Friedsam, President of the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief, Professor Shen Xiaomeng, Vice Rector of the United Nations University Europe, Professor Hans Moser, Head of Division at the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, and Professor Annette Scheersoi, Vice Rector for Sustainability at the University.
Finally, in keeping with tradition, proclamations and the presentation of international awards rounded off the ceremony. (Orig. text: Thomas Kölsch / Translation: ck)