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"We are in the midst of a time of rebuilding and new beginnings"

I see. It's not quite that simple after all. ChatGPT does all the work for us and we no longer have to think for ourselves. So let's write about our impressions of the Dies academicus 2023 at the University of Erfurt. ChatGPT was, as you might have guessed, a big topic there. Not only one of the two keynotes, but also of a subsequent workshop, which was led by Professor Robert Jung from the University of Hohenheim. He has been working on the topic of artificial intelligence for some time now and was able to provide insights in Erfurt and, of course, answer numerous questions from both concerned and less concerned members of the audience.

Screenshot ChatGPT
Hmmm.... :-(

But from the beginning ...

Under the motto "Participation – Resilience – Innovation. How does university succeed in the 21st century?", the University of Erfurt had invited its members today to a so-called "Dies academicus" (an academic day). To talk. Less about each other, but much more with each other. About the changing university. About what makes us the University of Erfurt and what moves us and moves us forward. We wanted to look at the status quo as well as at developments and what we as a university can take away from the crises of the recent past and the strategies for overcoming them.

And so the day started with a joint breakfast in the cafeteria before Professor Peer Pasternack from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg gave his keynote address on the topic of "Radicality and Weariness - The Poles of the Participation Debate and What Lies Between". How does it work with participation, with co-designing, at a university where countless particular interests have to be brought together to form a good whole? Why do good ideas, ambitious projects and innovation efforts sometimes fail? And how does a university manage to bring as many people as possible along with it and get them to help shape things – especially in view of the determinants that the scientific enterprise has to be aware of time and again? Peer Pasternak provided a good basis for understanding the "chaotic" university system and gave tips on how to make it fruitful.

Participation was also the topic of an event in which Equal Opportunity Officer Dr Theresia Piszcan and Diversity Officer Niklas Radenbach invited people to exchange ideas about involvement in university committees. Pasternak also had an example of this: some universities are now starting to reward student involvement in committees with credit points. An idea, by the way, for which the senate of the University of Erfurt has just spoken out...

A "big hit" at the "Dies academicus" was also the Speed Dating in the KIZ. This was a wonderful opportunity to get to know people on campus who you normally only see in passing or with whom you have always wanted to exchange a few words. Exciting, specially prepared questions and their answers provided small, personal insights and some knowledge that will stick in your memory. A format that certainly did not take place for the last time at the University of Erfurt.

Other workshops, lectures and activities dealt with topics such as democracy, innovation, digitalization in teaching, the Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz, first-time academics, foundation and internationalization. Meanwhile, the Equal Opportunity Office hosted a clothing exchange, and those looking for relaxation and peace could visit the Yurt of Silence on the campus lawn.

In contrast, the student plenary assembly, to which academic employees were also invited, met with an unexpectedly low response. The representatives of both groups took the opportunity to report on the issues that have preoccupied them in the past year and are currently preoccupying them - here, the effects of the Corona pandemic on teaching and research, but also the energy crisis and the resulting austerity measures at the University of Erfurt came up once again. The Presidium was also invited to the meeting, but in its report it looked less at the past and more at the future and what will occupy and accompany the Thuringian universities in general and the University of Erfurt in particular in the coming months (and years). University President Professor Walter Bauer-Wabnegg reported, among other things, on the working group "Hochschulentwicklung 2030+" (University Development 2030+), in which Thuringia's universities are currently working together to prepare for the challenges of the future. "There is a clear commitment by the state to the ten universities in Thuringia as a whole, but there is also a mandate to sharpen profiles and thus reduce unnecessary duplication and increase cooperation in the higher education landscape," the President explained. Internally, too, the University of Erfurt is currently undergoing an "in-depth review". With the internal working groups Administration and Structure, but also the discussions with the Faculty of Philosophy regarding its positioning for the future, the University is in the middle of a time of reorganization, but also of new beginnings. Whether it is the reappointment of professorships, the replacement of the University Council, new appointments to the Presidium, a new research profile strategy, the intensification of graduate service, which now seems possible again after the reduction of the so-called global shortfall, among other things, or considerations regarding new learning spaces on campus: The University of Erfurt still has a lot planned for this year. Two other milestones mentioned here are the opening of the Institute for Planetary Health Behavior, which was celebrated last Friday with numerous guests from politics, business, culture and science, and the opening of the research building, which will be celebrated on October 18.

Extensive and diverse - these are not only the challenges that the University of Erfurt will have to face in the future, this also applies to the programme of today's "Dies academicus". Those who missed parts of it had the opportunity to get an overview of what was discussed today. Wonderfully moderated by Professor Julia Knop, there was a podium at the end of the day where representatives of the individual status groups looked back on the results and impulses of the "Dies" and also reflected on the feedback of the participants.

In short, there were numerous opportunities today to gather ideas for successful cooperation on campus, to enter into conversation and to discuss how the university can succeed in the 21st century. Those who are not yet on their way there – this also became clear – are cordially invited to join in and do so. "University" does not work alone...

More results ...

... and photos from the event you will soon find on our

"Dies academicus" website