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A Special Place: 50 Years of Trier University – The Milestones

1970 wurde die Trierer Universität neu gegründet.
© Adolf Schuler
1970 wurde die Trierer Universität neu gegründet. © Adolf Schuler

18 October 2020 – 14 February 2021

Universität Trier is today a modern campus university, its character reflecting the contributions of numerous individuals and changes to both the structure and architecture of higher education. In 1969, the state government decided to found a second university in Rhineland-Pfalz (the first being in Mainz). The new institution was initially established as part of the twin University of Trier-Kaiserslautern, which opened in time for the winter semester of 1970–1971. The two ‘twins’ became independent institutions in 1975. After a 172-year hiatus, 1970 thus saw Trier became a university city once again. The university’s re-foundation stands out as one of the most important events in Trier’s post-1945 development. Trier had previously been home to an ‘Alma Mater’ in the period 1473 to 1798. That university was closed under French rule in an overhaul of education in France and its territories.

Just as a wide array of people are integral to the institution today, many individuals were involved in the genesis and evolution of Trier’s universities. These include popes and archbishops, citizens of Trier, as well as politicians, scholars, and faculty members. Already at the time of the old university, some members attempted with varying degrees of success to instigate institutional reform. Trier University owes much of its present-day form to the changes in higher education of the 1960s and 1970s. After its re-foundation in 1970, for example, there were major changes to the university’s ceremonial insignia. While the design of Trier’s current university seal serves as a link between the old institution and the new, the modern university does without the academic gowns and mace that formed part of its predecessor’s ceremonial insignia (as we know from the old statutes). Even the university’s location has changed: whereas the old one was situated in Trier’s historic centre, the present-day university reflects the preference for sites on ‘fields of green’. The greenfield campus, whose design integrates not only the university buildings but also the landscape and artworks set within it, was designated a ‘special place’ by the Federation of German Landscape Architects in 2013.

Arranged by theme, the exhibition A Special Place: 50 Years of Trier University – The Milestones showcases the modern institution’s past half-century with displays of original documents, first-hand contemporary accounts, prints, and artworks. The exhibition also shines a light on Trier University’s relationship both to its predecessor and to contemporary institutions established during the same wave of foundations, and examines how it bears the legacy of the West German higher education reforms of the 1960s and 1970s. Remaining conscious both of its historic traditions and its new beginnings amid special circumstances and challenges, Trier University has established a place for itself within Germany’s higher learning landscape.