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The Johannes Kepler University.

A Long and Moving History

Efforts to establish higher education in Linz date back to the 16th century. Following an agricultural and a Latin school, the "k.k. Lyceum" was established but closed in 1849.  Beginning in the middle of the 19th century, Linz envisioned several proposals time and again to establish a university offering studies in law, medicine, engineering, or a medical university. During the National Socialist period, extensive plans were devised to construct a technical university in what was then referred to as the "Führer's Capital". The result, however, was only a "provisional" educational institution opened at the Wilhering Abbey, seven kilometers from Linz.
 

Beginning in 1949, there were several unsuccessful attempts made to offer an engineering degree in Linz as part of studies at an engineering college. In the fall of 1954 gradual attempts began to propose and create a "new kind of university" focusing on social sciences, economics and business. To this end, a separate board of trustees was founded in March 1959 and the Linz University Fund was established three years later. The "Linzer Hochschule" was legally established in 1962 and the Linz University Fund continues to make considerable contributions to the expansion and operation of the university today.

October 8 1966 – A Memorable Day

On October 8, 1966, an official ceremony to celebrate the opening of the University of Social and Economic Sciences took place in the main square of Linz. Thousands gathered to watch Heinrich Gleißner, President of the University Funds, and Mayor Edmund Aigner ceremonially hand the key over to the university's first Rector, Ludwig Fröhler. Afterwards, Lecture Hall 1 was officially opened by Austrian President Franz Jonas.

Two days later, the Faculty of Social Sciences, Economics and Law welcomed students to classes at the university. In the fall of 1968, the Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences (TNF) was constituted and students began taking classes at the beginning of the 1969/1970 Winter Semester.  The TN Faculty in Linz was the first to offer a degree program in Computer Sciences. The Austrian Student Union began its activities on campus, representing students in university matters.

Enacted in October 1975, the University Organization Act gave the Linz University the Faculty of Law and the university was re-named: "Johannes Kepler University". Reforms were introduced in the area of administration and co-determination by assistant professors, students and administrative staff at all university levels.

The landmark TN Tower opened its doors in 1977 and became fully operational by November 1978. The university continued to grow and welcomed the main campus library building (1984), the Laboratory Building for Microelectronics (1985), and the Management Center (1991).  Student enrollment grew steadily and surpassed the 10,000 mark at the beginning of the 1984/1985 Winter Semester.

Softwarepark Hagenberg Takes Shape

The Research Institute for Symbolic Computing (RISC) was founded in 1987. Two years later, the institute moved into the renovated Schloss Hagenberg (district of Freistadt) in Upper Austria's Mühlviertel region. Subsequently, other institutes, a university of applied sciences and companies followed RISC to the area, forming today's Softwarepark Hagenberg. The Johannes Kepler University was the first university in the world to offer an academic degree program in Mechatronics.

 

At the beginning of the 90s, the JKU actively pursued international partnerships and a Vice-Rector for International Affairs was appointed in 1996. As early as 1991, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science founded the Distance Learning Center at the JKU, enabling educational opportunities at the Fernuniversität Hagen for those interested. The Linz Center for Supercomputing (LIZENS) opened in 1992. During the same year, an Austrian Center for University Semiconductor Research was on the campus.

The JKU was the first university in Austria to enact the 1993 Universities Organization Act during the 1996/1997 Winter Semester, thus strengthening the university's autonomy. Existing partnerships were intensified: external funding was used to create the special research area "Numerical and Symbolic Scientific Computing", several K-Plus centers, the Johann Radon Institute of Applied Mathematics, and additional Christian Doppler laboratories.

The JKU forged ahead with new structural measures: In 1997, the Bank Building opened its doors and in 2003, Hochschulfond building. After far-reaching reforms in university law, the curricula was revised and enacted between 2000 and 2003. At the same time, the university revised its faculty strategies and university's overall strategy for research, teaching and continual education. The university anticipated the 2002 Universities Act 2002 and defined future areas of excellence by establishing its own development priorities.

Pioneer for New Degree Programs,
the Advancement of Women and Gender Studies

The JKU is at the forefront of administrative innovation: The KeplerCard, the first student ID card featuring an integrated chip, was introduced during Winter Semester 1998/1999. In the fall of 2003, the Kepler University introduced Austria's first wireless campus, followed by a Europe-wide multi-media degree program in law in 2002/2003

The JKU forged a new path by implementing social policies designed to support the advancement of women and offer gender studies as well as better integrate and support disabled individuals. During the 2000/2001 academic year, the inter-disciplinary institute for Women's Affairs and Gender Studies and the Office for the Advancement of Women opened its doors, followed by the institute for "Integrated Studies". The alumni association "FORUM Studium & Beruf" was created toward the end of 1999, and two years later the association was re-named the Kepler Society. The Career Center opened on the campus in the fall of 2004.

 

Science Park, New Legal Structure and Degree Program Reform

The master plan for the JKU Science Park was hatched in 2003. The idea was to bring research and development in mechatronics, computer science and other scientific and engineering disciplines together and accommodate JKU partners. Construction began on the first part in the spring of 2007 and the building was officially opened in 2009. Two more sections followed and two more buildings are currently in the planning stages.

At the beginning of 2004, the Johannes Kepler University Linz was legally spun off from the federal administration and given legal form as a legal entity subject to public law, resulting in increased autonomy for action but legistically reduced co-determination. The JKU's reorganization efforts concentrated on centralizing university management and administration and creating a study administration. Beginning in 2004, the JKU began to offer inter-university studies.

The Faculty of Law developed new degree programs. The faculties of Social Sciences, Economics & Business as well as Engineering & Natural Sciences conformed their degree programs in accordance with the Bologna Agreement.

 

Virtual Reality Center, Austrian Grid, MACH and the Austrian Business School

The Virtual Reality Center opened in 2014. One year later, Austria Grid - one of Europe's most powerful grid computing systems - began operations and in 2011, the system was upgraded using the MACH Computing System. The number of Christian Doppler laboratories continues to rise along with additional research centers and laboratories. Founded in the late 80s, the Linz International Management Academy - LIMAK - became the Johannes Kepler University Business School in 2005. Together with the University of Applied Sciences of Upper Austria, the LIMAK Austrian Business School was established in 2005.

 

Expanding Fields of Excellence and Campus Enhancements

The JKU's 2006-2012 Development Plan outlines medium-term excellence and development priorities in research. The 2013-2018 Development Plan maintained these priorities to a large extent, pooling them into additional fields of excellence. In 2006, the chemistry department at the JKU began to introduce a new research area focusing on polymer chemistry while also extending their field of excellence to include polymer engineering technologies.

Campus growth and enhancement continued and in 2010, the JKU opened a modern central law library at the recently renovated Juridicum Building. Two years later, an addition was built on to the university cafeteria in order to accommodate the rapidly growing number of enrolled students. In 2013, RISC received a new extension building in Hagenberg.

The Faculty of Medicine

After numerous attempts to create a school of medicine in Upper Austria, plans for a "Linz Model for the JKU Faculty of Medicine" were drafted in 2012. The JKU Faculty of Medicine opened its doors just two years later. The Faculty of Medicine currently accepts 60 new students each year; at full capacity, the medical school will accept 300 new students to the program each year. Ground has been broken for a new building located at the Med Campus in the center of Linz. The new building is scheduled to be completed by 2021.

 

New Pedagogic Program for Educators

As part of the "Cluster Mitte" organization, a new teacher education program began in 2016/2017. The Johannes Kepler University Linz brings its expertise in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, nathematics) to the table and also takes part in the "Lehramt NEU" program offering classes in its field of social studies, business, and cultural studies (history / social studies / political education, psychology and philosophy, geography and business as well as English).

Campus Enhancements: Learning, Working
and Playing at the JKU

Plans to re-design the JKU campus are underway, underpinning the self-image of providing space to learn, work, and live. The total investment of approximately € 30 million includes heightening the TNF tower to include a viewing platform, a Think-Tank space, an addition to the library, the Kepler Hall event center, and additional areas for sports and recreation.

Sources:

Maria Wirth, Andreas Reichl and Marcus Gräser, ...

Maria Wirth, Andreas Reichl u. Marcus Gräser, 50 Jahre Johannes Kepler Universität Linz. Eine „Hochschule neuen Stils“, Wien/Köln/Weimar 2016.

Maria Wirth, Andreas Reichl and Marcus Gräser, ...

Maria Wirth, Andreas Reichl u. Marcus Gräser (Hg.), 50 Jahre Johannes Kepler Universität Linz. Innovationsfelder in Forschung, Lehre und universitärem Alltag, Wien/Köln/Weimar 2017.

Johannes Kepler University Linz (editor) and Johann Drachsler (Ed. Staff), ...

Johannes Kepler Universität Linz (Hg.) u. Johann Drachsler (Red.), Die Johannes Kepler Universität Linz 1966-2000, Linz 1999.

Hanns Kreczi, ...

Hanns Kreczi, Linz University Funds. Inception and construction of the Johannes Kepler University Linz. Documentation letter by the Linz University Funds to mark the 10th anniversary of School of Higher Education in Linz, Linz 1976.

Gustav Otruba (Ed. Staff), ...

Gustav Otruba (Red.), Johannes Kepler Universität Linz. Hochschule für Sozial- und Wirtschaftswissenschaften, Linz 1976.

Linz University Funds (Editor), ...

Linz University Funds (Editor), Opening Remarks School of Higher Education Linz, Linz 1966.