Sunday, 30-08-2015


Lübeck Foundation Under Public Law: Autonomy as an Opportunity

Funding received from reputed sources for the foundation under public law – multifaceted perspectives for the university’s growth

On 1 January 2015, the University of Lübeck became the first of its kind to be established as a foundation under public law in the State of Schleswig-Holstein. It plans to raise € 50 million in private funds over the next decade – to solidify its profile and develop an advanced Life Science Campus.  This was the message from Prof. Dr. med. Dr. h.c. Hendrik Lehnert, FRCP, FACP, President of the University, at the Founders Press Conference address given on 18 February 2015.

Prof. Hendrik Lehnert welcomed this development with the words, “As a foundation under public law, we want to capture new opportunities to strengthen and expand our position as a solid life science and teaching university.” He added that this new status opens up doors for additional resources that underpin its growth, while the high quality of research and teaching achieved in the past serves as excellent start-up capital for such a foundation.

The strengths are mirrored impressively by the growth in the student population (+ 60% since 2004), majors (nine new ones since 2000), third-party funding for research (+ 90% since 2004) and technology transfer (+ 43% more founding projects mentored since 2013). The strategic goals of the foundation under public law until 2025 are to have 5,000 students, obtain third-party funding of € 50 million and raise other funds to the tune of € 50 million.

The university community views establishment of the foundation under public law as an opportunity. The President of the Student Council, Steffen Drewes, said, “The students consider this a positive move. Until now, we have been involved very closely in the entire process and in future will also have a voice on the Management Council.” Even the chair of AStA (the student committee), Birte Stoeter, gave a thumbs up to this development: “As students and future alumni, we want to take an active role in helping the university grow successfully. We hope to profit from the extra funding in terms of a better infrastructure and personalised teaching support of students.” Stoeter then added, “However, it is crucial that the state does not withdraw its base funding.”

Initial block of € 2.3 million raised to kick-off the foundation under public law

Initial grants from reputed sources have been received, including over € 1.3 million from the Possehl Foundation slated for a professional fund-raising programme and internal and external communications, over € 0.5 million from the Jürgen-Wessel Foundation for the capital stock of the foundation, and over € 0.2 million from the Parcham’sche Foundation to set up a Henning-Parcham Lounge with 200 extra workplaces in the university library for students. 

Other initial grants include € 213K from Mach AG Lübeck for modern software to professionally manage the new foundation under public law, and notification of a € 100K testamentary bequest. These funds for the foundation already total € 2.3 million as of 1 January 2015, and another € 5 million are anticipated in 2015 for professorships at this campus.

Björn Engholm, Chair of the University Alumni, Friends, Patrons and Honorary Citizens Association, sees this as a very encouraging start. He stated, “These initial grants demonstrate the attractiveness of the model of a foundation under public law to potential sponsors. It gives the university the chance to exercise greater autonomy, eases reforms and strengthens internal and external identification with the university.”

Life Science Campus of the 21st Century

A host of new university facilities are sprouting up on the Lübeck Campus, at a cost of roughly € 80 million. These include the Center of Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM) and the Lübeck Centre for Infection and Inflammation (ZIEL) – the two centres of research excellence.  Over the next decade, the goal is to set up a centre for medical technology to address the third pillar of university research, along with a centre for teaching to promote academic and professional training and continuing education. Prof. Dr. Hendrik Lehnert remarked, “Such impressive growth of the campus infrastructure in recent years underscores the university’s dynamism. This is where the Life Science Campus of the 21st century is coming to life.” 

Now, in the form of a foundation under public law, the university has joined a centuries old culture prevalent in Lübeck. The university perceives itself as an active element in society and strives to make a long-lasting contribution to develop the city and region. Renate Menken, Chair of the Possehl Foundation of Lübeck commented, “The university is a core part of the Hanseatic City of Lübeck. Hence, the Possehl Foundation will serve as a reliable partner and do its utmost to fully support the newly established foundation under public law.”


The university has resolutely pursued this transformation into a foundation under public law, whereby the decisive resolution of the Academic Senate was passed unanimously by all university groups on 12 December 2012. On 12 September 2014, the Schleswig Holstein State Parliament enacted the transformation as of 1 January 2015. This makes the University of Lübeck the eighth such foundation in Germany, on the heels of Göttingen, Hildesheim, Leuphana Lüneburg, University of Osnabrück and the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover (all converted in 2003), the European University of Viadrina in Frankfurt/Oder and the University of Frankfurt am Main (both since 2008). Each group of the university will be represented equally in the Management Council, i.e., professors, scientific and non-scientific staff and students. This approach is a novel one among such foundations under public law in Germany.