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"Overall it was a success story"

Jürgen Schlaeger was founding director of the Great Britain Centre (GBZ) at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. In an interview, he tells us how it came about, how the GBZ developed and where it is going.

The Centre for British Studies of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin was founded 25 years ago by a decision of the Senate as a sign of gratitude to the former protecting power Great Britain. The British still expected a lot from a close partnership with the recently reunited Germany. At the time, all those in charge were convinced that the future of both countries would lie in a joint, economically successful and politically smoothly functioning partnership. "The time was marked by a new beginning. This was to be the starting signal for a new phase of relations. The Centre was to become something like a meeting place in the old/new capital, where close ties could continue to grow, also on a scientific level," recalls Prof. Dr. Jürgen Schlaeger.


Prof. Dr. Jürgen Schlaeger from the Centre for British Studies of HU

Exchange with the public was part of the founding mission from the very beginning and public lectures were part of the program. They were very successful, even though not all interested parties could be reached through the events in English. "We have taken our mission to reach out to the public very seriously. After all, our mission is to help people know and understand what is happening and to support them with expert knowledge", Jürgen Schlaeger describes the GBZ's self-image.

This also included the master's course in British Studies. From the very beginning, students from all over the world came, and this has remained so until today, young people with a first degree from up to 15 different countries every year. Such a course of studies must of course also adapt to changes and respond to the expectations of the students in order to take advantage of their horizons of interest. Prof. Schlaeger, however, advocates not following every short-lived trend: "Teachers must decide whether students' expectations are productive and sustainable. Science would do well to keep its distance and only do something if one is convinced of it for good, justifiable reasons".


Prof. Dr. Jürgen Schlaeger from the Centre for British Studies of HU


From the outset, the Centre for British Studies has been interdisciplinary in its approach, examining the country from various academic perspectives, from literary and cultural studies as well as political science, economics and law. Jürgen Schlaeger is convinced that this continues to be a unique selling point of the Centre for British Studies. "We offer institutionalised interdisciplinarity, we are in a constant struggle for scientific perspectives. This creates a kind of insight into depth, breadth and complexity that you can't get anywhere else." When we were founded, this consistently interdisciplinary approach was still uncharted territory. Today, the Centre has moved from a marginal phenomenon to the mainstream, with all the opportunities and challenges that this entails.

"This mainstream is in constant motion, especially today. No one can know today where it is heading. Maybe in 30, 40 years, people will think: "What's the point? We have completely different interests. Everything is in flux, even if we are in the middle of the stream at the moment. Of course, with growing opportunities and lots of competition."


Prof. Dr. Jürgen Schlaeger from the Centre for British Studies of HU


Author: Boris Nitzsche