The University need an attractive Town

Interview with Prof. Dr. Hardy Geyer

"We must first think of something which we can use to compete with the large cities.”
Prof. Hardy Geyer, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Merseburg

How is the IBA subject of “New milieus – new chances” related to the University of Merseburg?


Prof. Hardy Geyer: Back in 2005, the town of Merseburg was thinking about how it could gain more vitality and how its image and therefore marketing efforts could be improved. There are too many people who just work or study in Merseburg but prefer to the urban lifestyle in the nearby cities of Halle and Leipzig. They live there and spend their leisure time there. In this context, the University of Merseburg conducted a study into the demographic structure, the decline in population and the new milieus. It revealed quite clearly that as a result of its industrial past Merseburg is lacking creative potential that would ensure a lively atmosphere in the town. As a university, we see this potential in our students …

… that Merseburg as a student town wishes to win over. How?

Prof. Hardy Geyer: The university need an attractive town for students to decide to study at out university. And the town needs students for a creative, lively atmosphere, if possible in the centre of town. That is why a strategy had to the found – “New milieus – new chances” that establishes a range of offers that is permanent.

Is that where the idea of a “bank house” originates?

Prof. Hardy Geyer: Exactly. To draw students to Merseburg, direct to the centre, we wanted to provide first-time, young and fresh housing opportunities. The idea was developed by students on the Culture and Media Education course at our university. The former bank, dating back to the 1950s, in König-Heinrich-Straße was finally extended and converted unbureaucratically together with Gebäudewirtschaft mbH Merseburg. It’s a great idea in a trendy area of town with library, bistro, station all nearby in the proximity of the campus. From the very first day the rooms have always been rented out.

But with the change of course for the IBA and the focus on the subject of the Burgberg these experimental student housing projects were no longer continued?

Prof. Hardy Geyer: … which is something that does not stop us, as a university, from continuing to work systematically to develop such facilities for students. A year ago we offered the building trust to undertake a project involving so-called “guardian houses” in Burgstraße. This is an initiative that was developed in other towns whereby empty buildings in need of reconstruction are inhabited once more for a for temporary period. Only the running costs are paid for, otherwise it is up to the residents to maintain and design the state of the houses. The idea is still in the early stages of development. All the university’s other ideas relate to the campus …

… with a daring idea …

Prof. Hardy Geyer: Currently the entire campus is being redeveloped and the work will continue until 2010. After that we will be starting an experiment. “A little house for every student” is a project with which we intend to interest even more students in us and studying in the town of Merseburg. Already more than two thirds of all students live on campus, less than eight minutes from the town centre. We will provide small, independent, privately financed houses in which specific milieus will have an interest: the technology freaks, the creative students, the social and cultural educationalists … Who knows? And once the students are here, the academic staff will follow, even onto the Burgberg, and maybe they will forego their second homes in Leipzig …

Can you compete with large cities such as Leipzig?

Prof. Hardy Geyer: Not compete. But we can offer something of our own, unmistakable, in a great town whose beauties are still sleeping, hidden from the world. And we have no other chance. We are a hostage to demographic developments and expect a fall in student applications of up to 40 per cent by 2013/2014. For that reason we must come up with something to challenge the cities.

Info: Merseburg

(Municipal Area of 2010)
1989: 47.232
2009: 35.894
2025: 28.704 (Future Prospect)

Municipal Area: 54,73 qkm 

IBA-Website of Merseburg