The jury of the nationwide Genius Loci Prize for Teaching Excellence, which is awarded annually by the Stifterverband and the Volkswagen Foundation, has nominated the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt (KU) for the final round. The KU applied with its Mission Statement for studies and teaching, which was adopted in 2019. In addition to the KU, the Goethe University Frankfurt, the Technical University Munich, the University of Ulm, Zeppelin University and three universities are now invited to present their teaching strategy in detail. The prize will be awarded to universities and higher education institutions that are exemplary in their commitment to excellent teaching, have established a teaching strategy and see teaching as a field of experimentation and innovation. Both students and teachers are represented on the jury of the award.
"Being able to open up reality through science and to help shape society in a responsible manner – this is what the KU's study offer seeks to impart to its students. For us, it is of utmost importance that our students are able to make the most of this defining phase of their educational biography by unfolding their own individual talents and potential. Our 'Mission Statement for Studies and Teaching' could be seen as a kind of Magna Charta or a compass to align the courses and degree programs at the KU in such a way that they fulfill this aspiration", explains Prof. Dr. Markus Eham, Vice President for Studies and Teaching at the KU. The Mission Statement was not created specifically for the competition, but was developed independently based on the KU's profile and core values. "In contrast to state universities and higher education institutions, the KU, due to its status, was not able to participate in the Teaching Quality Pact, with which the Federal Government has been promoting measures to improve the quality of teaching since 2011. Thus, the KU developed an own concept thatuses, pools and emphasizes our special qualities", adds KU President Prof. Dr. Gabriele Gien. Besides excellence in research, excellent teaching is equally important to the KU. In 2017, journalism professor Klaus Meier was successful in securing the Ars-Legendi Prize for excellent university teaching for KU.
The KU's Mission Statement for Studies and Teaching contains four different areas that reflect essential aspects of the KU's profile and mission: The field of 'discursive education' emphasizes the value of an open, critical and reflected exchange between teachers and students. Through an adequate combination of classroom teaching, independent study and digital teaching-learning settings, teachers support a learning culture of academic freedom. In this way, students are introduced to the independent design of their educational and qualification process.
The term 'interconnected education' underlines the importance of inter- and transdisciplinary formats. The campus culture at the KU wants to offer excellent conditions for a discourse that connects the disciplines, that is filled with life both through the spatial proximity of the subjects and through the cooperation with educational partners in the region. In view of the increasingly global developments in almost all areas of life, it is of utmost importance to the KU to expand on its international network further in order to foster a culture of committed science.
In turn, 'committed education' means making ideal use of the acquired knowledge in dialogue with all parts of society and reflecting on social developments. Diversity and inclusion as well as human-oriented digitalization are just as much in focus as the commitment to sustainability. The field of studies and teaching aims to promote a socio-culturally, ecologically and economically just and sustainable development of society, especially by invonvling students' active participation.
Last but not least, the keyword 'individual education' that was also included in the Mission Statement stands for the objective that studying involves more than just the acquisition of knowledge. The ideal staff-to-student ratio at the KU makes it possible to support students in their individual talents. KU graduates are enabled to react to changing requirements flexibly and contribute to the creation of knowledge in a reflected and informed manner. Personalities like these are able to shape their lives in solidarity, competence and creativity and to find their place in society.
In the nomination process for the Genius Loci Prize, this systematization reflecting the four areas was positively emphasized, as it places great value on academic personal development, orientation towards the common good and being rooted within the region. The interdisciplinary program "Studium.Pro", which offers all students the opportunity to choose accompanying courses to enrich their education and qualification paths during their studies, is a good example of the core values in the KU's teaching profile. The supplementary or advanced offers in "Studium.Pro" are an expression of a scientific and educational culture of responsibility, one of the core values of the KU as a whole. The program is now a binding component in 20 degree programs at the KU and will be anchored in all degree programs in the medium term. For example, it is already part of the Flexible Bachelor's and Master's programs, in which students can put together their own course of study based on a pool of subjects. In accordance with the Mission Statement, these courses of study are interconnected and interdisciplinary. In addition, "Studium.Pro" provides the opportunity to get involved and students can organize parts of their curriculum completely flexibly according to their personal preferences.
However, the KU has not reached the end of its development process in this respect with the adoption of the Mission Statement for Studies and Teaching and the application for the Genius-Loci Prize: "Although the KU’s teaching strategy is written down in a static document in the Mission Statement for Studies and Teaching, we still understand it as a process that is subject to constant dynamic development. Therefore, we are constantly working on adapting good teaching at the KU to the ever-changing circumstances and challenges." says Vice President Eham.