Markus Blume: KU is and remains a pearl of the higher education landscape

"Do we need a Catholic University?", Reinhard Cardinal Marx addressed the guests at the Dies Academicus of the KU. The answer to this question was then promptly provided by the Magnus Cancellarius of the KU himself: He emphasized the enormous importance of the University, especially in a time of social change, with a ‘yes, yes and yes again’. The cardinal made his commitment to the University in a packed Aula. Numerous guests of honor, employees and students celebrated the KU's academic festive day, including the Bavarian Minister of Science Markus Blume and other representatives from politics, presidents and chancellors of Bavarian colleges and universities, representatives of business, the church or the Bavarian Teachers' Association.

In his address, Cardinal Marx spoke about the uncertainty that current challenges such as the war in Ukraine or climate change entail. He said that hope was needed to be able to face these crises. Especially in times of upheaval, the Catholic University, in its uniqueness in the German-speaking world, was an important source of inspiration for such confidence, Marx said. "And its Magnus Cancellarius commits to the fact that it will continue to be in the future."

The "distinctive spirit" of the University was also emphasized by the Bavarian Science Minister Markus Blume in his speech: "I am even more convinced today than when I first visited Eichstätt: The KU is and remains a pearl of our higher education landscape." Blume already attended the KU's Dies Academicus in the previous year - "and this as a Protestant", as Blume joked. But he is always "irrepressibly" pleased to experience the personal atmosphere on campus. For him, the KU is "a sworn community where everyone is working towards the same direction”. He said, the KU was strong in being "on the pulse of the time, but equally firm when it comes to providing the necessary constants with the Christian foundation of values, which is underpinned here." That is why it was not surprising that the KU was voted among the most popular universities in the country year after year.

Marian Langer, spokesperson for the Student Representative Council, underlined the extent to which students in Eichstätt and Ingolstadt are committed to the KU. "We are lending a hand wherever we're needed. We are a colorful mix. Each and every one of us adds unique skills and perspectives." Student engagement, he believes, is fuel for a university where faith and science are not mutually exclusive, but rather mutually empowering.

For Prof. Dr. Gabriele Gien, President of the KU, the Dies Academicus is a good opportunity for guests to get to know the KU in all its uniqueness: "We stand out from the university landscape with our special profile and self-conception, as I hope you can still see for yourself today." The University stands for innovative and interdisciplinary development, she said. In her speech, Gien gave several examples of this: the general renovation of the KU, the imminent opening of an outdoor campus, the establishment of the Mathematical Institute for Machine Learning and Data Science, the filling of tenure-track professorships in the field of "a human-centered digital society", and the creation of learning and thinking spaces for modern university didactics with new teaching formats. "Studying with a focus on human values is not just an advertising slogan, but deeply anchored in the KU's DNA." That is why the digitalization of teaching, service learning and other innovative learning formats was part of the University's concept. A School of Transformation and Sustainability developed from the religious education department will "pick up future generations and develop future skills together with them."

"Future skills" was also the keyword for the keynote speech on the occasion of the Dies Academicus. Prof. Manuel J. Hartung, Chairman of the Board of the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius, spoke on the topic of "The unsettled university - universities between climate crisis and ChatGPT": "A speech about insecurity – what is the best way to start it? From up here on the stage, you have a range of options to test your own personal unsettling skills." Hartung jumped right into the topic of his keynote address. "I want to reflect with you today on how the major structural changes in this world, the climate crisis on the one hand, the development of artificial intelligence on the other, are causing and also must prompt universities to change." We have been torn from an age of easy trade-offs and thrown right into a period of uncertainty, he said – now, it was difficult to make decisions with alternatives and probabilities being open. "This has also made many of the ways in which we trained obsolete." Another concept of education was therefore needed. "Because if assumptions about the future have become obsolete, this must change our knowledge and turn our approach to knowledge upside down." Researchers and teachers alike must "embrace the big question marks and allow their own uncertainty in" - which is why he cited the acquisition of skills how to deal with uncertainty as a central educational task. Only in this way can uncertainty be made productive and be overcome. "You are particularly well equipped here at Eichstätt-Ingolstadt to reinvent the concept university." The reason for this, according to Hartung, was the strong focus on the humanities: "The humanities are uncertainty sciences par excellence, preparing for and helping to manage the potential harms and dislocations of a world."

The accompanying music for the ceremony was provided by students and teachers from the Ku’s music department: the vocal ensemble "Oaktones," a Klezmer ensemble, the "Trio de Jazzéro," and music professor Kathrin Schlemmer and her colleague Daniel Eberhard. BR correspondent Daniela Olivares, who is a KU graduate herself, served as moderator for the ceremony. Before the ceremony, University members and guests celebrated a church service in the Eichstätt Schutzengelkirche, which was led by Cardinal Marx. The church service was accompanied by a choir and an instrumental ensemble under the direction of the former vice president Prof. Dr. Markus Eham; also the Schola of the Collegium Orientale participated with a song contribution.