RWTH Aachen University

RWTH Aachen University

RWTH Aachen University Details

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The Excellence Initiative of the German federal and state governments provided a huge boost to the further
development of RWTH Aachen University. The institutional strategy on which the successful Excellence Initiative application was based has, in the meantime, been expanded to form a long-term strategy to strengthen all the areas of the University and enhance their profiles. In the process it has gained great momentum, which can be seen, among other things, in the extensive building activities.

Visible evidence of this is the RWTH Aachen Campus that is being developed in close cooperation with industry and which is to form one of the largest research campuses in Europe. Students and employees of RWTH Aachen will benefit equally from these developments and are expressly invited to get involved in shaping the individual initiatives.

The many stimulating ideas already have an impact on the whole urban region of Aachen and the entire tri-border area of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. An innovative knowledge community is evolving that is closely networked with some of the world’s leading research and industry partners.

RWTH Aachen is a major driving force behind this development. And Aachen, as a liveable and lovable city at the crossroads of three cultures, provides an ideal environment for this creative process of development.

With its 260 institutes in nine faculties, RWTH Aachen is among the leading European scientific and research institutions. 43,721 students in 152 courses of study are registered for the winter semester of 2015/16, including 7,904 international students from 125 countries. Teaching at RWTH Aachen is first and foremost application-oriented. Its graduates are therefore sought-after as junior executives and leaders in business and industry.

National rankings (de) and international assessments attest to the RWTH graduates’ marked ability to handle complex tasks, to solve problems constructively in team work and to take on leadership roles. It is therefore not surprising that many board members of German corporate groups studied at RWTH Aachen.

RWTH Aachen has set for itself clearly defined goals. By the year 2020, it aims to be the best German University of technology and one of the top five in Europe as measured by academic output, by the quality of its graduates, and by external funding. It strives to be a leading player in interdisciplinary large-scale research projects. It aims to be an internationally recognized university with lasting excellence in research and teaching that trains outstanding academics and well-qualified young leaders for industry and society in both the national and international context.

In this radical and complex process of reorientation, RWTH Aachen sees itself as a university in which all groups actively contribute to a lasting and open communication culture. All members of the university, including the students, pledge to support a joint high-performance culture: competition is regarded as a constructive aspect of academic life. RWTH Aachen considers this creative culture of change a fundamental principle for innovation and societal progress.

Schools / Colleges / Departments / Courses / Faculties

  • Mathematics, Computer Science and Natural Sciences
  • Architecture
  • Civil Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Georesources and Materials Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering and Information Technology
  • Arts and Humanities
  • School of Business and Economics
  • Medicine


On 25 January 1858, prince Frederick William of Prussia (later German emperor), was presented with a donation of 5,000 talers for charity, raised by the Aachener und Münchener Feuer-Versicherungs-Gesellschaft, the precursor of the AachenMünchenerinsurance company. In March, the prince chose to use the donation to found the first Prussian institute of technology somewhere in theRhine province. The seat of the institution remained undecided over years; while the prince initially favored Koblenz, the cities ofAachen, Bonn, Cologne and Düsseldorf also applied, with Aachen and Cologne being the main competitors. Aachen finally won with a financing concept backed by the insurance company and by local banks. Groundbreaking for the new Polytechnikum took place on 15 May 1865 and lectures started during the Franco-Prussian War on 10 October 1870 with 223 students and 32 teachers. The new institution had as its primary purpose the education of engineers, especially for the mining industry in the Ruhr area; there were schools of chemistry, electrical and mechanical engineering as well as an introductory general school that taught mathematicsand natural sciences and some social sciences.

The unclear position of the new Prussian polytechnika (which officially were not universities) affected the first years. Polytechnics lacked prestige in society and the number of students decreased. This began to change in 1880 when the early RWTH, amongst others, was reorganized as a Royal Technical University, gained a seat in the Prussian House of Lords and finally won the right to bestow PhD (1898) degrees and Diplom titles (introduced in 1902). In the same year, over 800 male students enrolled. In 1909 the first women were admitted and the artist August von Brandis succeeded Alexander Frenz at the Faculty of Architecture as a “professor of figure and landscape painting”, Brandis became dean in 1929.

World War I, however, proved a serious setback for the university. Many students voluntarily joined up and died in the war, and parts of the university were shortly occupied or confiscated.

While the (then no more royal) TH Aachen (Technische Hochschule Aachen) flourished in the 1920s with the introduction of more independent faculties, of several new institutes and of the general students’ committee, the first signs of nationalist radicalization also became visible within the university. The Third Reich’s Gleichschaltung of the TH in 1933 met with relatively low resistance from both students and faculty. Beginning in September 1933, Jewish and (alleged) Communist professors (and from 1937 on also students) were systematically persecuted and excluded from the university. Vacant Chairs were increasingly given to NSDAP party-members or sympathizers. The freedom of research and teaching became severely limited, and institutes important for the regime’s plans were systematically established, and existing chairs promoted. Briefly closed in 1939, the TH continued courses in 1940, although with a low number of students. On 21 October 1944, when Aachen capitulated, more than 70% of all buildings of the university were destroyed or heavily damaged.

After World War II ended in 1945 the university recovered and expanded quickly. In the 1950s, many professors who had been removed because of their alleged affiliation with the Nazi party were allowed to return and a multitude of new institutes were founded. By the late 1960s, the TH had 10,000 students, making it the foremost of all German technical universities. With the foundation of philosophical and medical faculties in 1965 and 1966, respectively, the university became more “universal”. The newly founded faculties in particular began attracting new students, and the number of students almost doubled twice from 1970 (10,000) to 1980 (more than 25,000) and from 1980 to 1990 (more than 37,000). Now, the average number of students is around 42,000, with about one third of all students being women. By relative terms, the most popular study-programs are engineering (57%), natural science (23%), economics and humanities (13%) and medicine (7%).

In December 2006, RWTH Aachen and the Sultanate of Oman signed an agreement to establish a private German University of Technology in Muscat. Professors from Aachen aided in developing the curricula for the currently five study-programs and scientific staff took over some of the first courses.

In 2007, RWTH Aachen was chosen as one of nine German Universities of Excellence for its future concept RWTH 2020: Meeting Global Challenges, earning it the connotation of being an elite university. However, although the list of universities honored for their future concepts mostly consists of large and already respected institutions, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research claimed that the initiative aimed at promoting universities with a dedicated future concept so they could continue researching on an international level.Having won funds in all three lines of funding, the process brought RWTH Aachen University an additional total funding of € 180 million from 2007-2011. The other two lines of funding were graduate schools, where the Aachen Institute for Advanced Study in Computational Engineering Science received funding and so-called “clusters of excellence”, where RWTH Aachen managed to win funding for the three clusters: Ultra High-Speed Mobile Information and Communication (UMIC), Integrative Production Technology for High-wage Countries and Tailor-Made Fuels from Biomass

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