History of the University of Hamburg
Founding of the university
At the beginning of the 20th Century, wealthy individuals made several petitions to the Hamburg Senate and Parliament requesting the establishment of a university, however those were made to no avail. Although for a time, senator Werner von Melle supported the merger of existing institutions into one university, this plan failed because of the parliaments composition due to the effects of class voting. Much of the establishment wanted to see Hamburg limited to its dominant role as a trading center and shunned both the costs of a university and the social demands of the professors that would have to be employed.
Progress was made however, since proponents of a university founded the Hamburg Science Foundation (Hamburgische Wissenschaftliche Stiftung) in 1907 and the Hamburg Colonial Institute in 1908. The former institution supported the recruitment of scholars for the chairs of the General lecture system and funding of research cruises, and the latter was responsible for all education and research questions concerning overseas territories. In the same year, the citizenry approved a construction site on the Moorweide for the establishment of a lecture building, which opened in 1911 and later became the Main Building of the university. However, the plans for the foundation of the university itself had to be shelved, following the outbreak of the First World War.
After the war, the first freely elected senate choose von Melle as mayor. He and Rudolf Ross made a push for education reform in Hamburg, and their law establishing the university and a Adult high school finally went through. On March 28, 1919 the University of Hamburg opened its gates. The number of full professorships in Hamburg was increased from 19 to 39. Both the Colonial Institute and the General Lecture system were absorbed into the university. The first faculties created by the university were Law and Political Science, Medicine, Philosophy and Natural Sciences.
Weimar Republic and National Socialist era
During the Weimar Republic, the university quickly grew into importance. Several thousand students were continuously enrolled, and it drew scholars like Albrecht Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Aby Warburg and Ernst Cassirer to Hamburg. The number of full professors had by 1931 grown to 75. Because many students were suffering due to the bad economic situation that prevailed in the early republic, the Hamburg Association of Student Aid was founded in 1922. Ernst Cassirer became principal of the university in 1929, one of the first Jewish scholars with that role in Germany.
The academic situation shifted quickly after the general election in March 1933. Already on May 1 of that year – the university held a ceremony to honor Adolf Hitler as its leader. Massive political influence by the Nazis followed, including the removal of books from the libraries and harassment against alleged enemies of the people. About fifty scientists, including Ernst Cassirer and William Stern, had to leave the university.
At least ten students working with the White Rose in Hamburg were suspected and arrested; four of them died in custody or were executed. In the foyer of the lecture hall a design by Fritz Fleer commemorative plate was taken in 1971 in memory of the four resistance fighters.
In the Federal Republic of Germany
After the Second World War, the university was reopened in the winter of 1945 with 17,800 employees. Out of the 2,872 students who were enrolled at the University of Hamburg in the first postwar semester of 1945/46, 601 had been admitted at the Philosophical, 952 at the Medical and 812 to the Faculty of Law and Political Science. The smallest number joined the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences with 506 students in total. The first student association during this period was elected in 1946 under British supervision, and it formed the foundation of the AStA in 1947.
During the West German era, new departments were added to the university, most notably the Faculty of Theology as well as the Faculty of Economic and Social Sciences in 1954. The late 1950s and early 1960s saw a lot of construction: the Auditorium and the Philosopher's Tower where inaugurated near the Von-Melle-Park, while the Botanical Institute and Botanical Garden were relocated to Flottbeck. The university grew from 12,600 students in 1960 to 19,200 in 1970. A wave of protests during the student movements of 1968 sparked a reform of the university structure, and in 1969 the faculties were dissolved in favor of more interdisciplinary departments. Student and staff involvement in the administration was also strengthened, and the office of Rektor abolished in favor of a university president. However, parts of the reform were later rescinded in 1979. Further construction in the 1970s also built up the remaining space on the main campus of Rotherbaum quarter, with the Geomatikum building and the Wiwi-Bunker (named for its bunker-like architecture) being the distinctive addition for that decade. Since then, new properties were opened in other parts of Hamburg. Two newly constructed buildings were opened adjacent to the Main Building in 1998 and 2002, revitalizing the Moorweide area of the university.
In 2005, the Hamburg University of Economy and Politics was merged into the University of Hamburg by a political act that was opposed by both institutions. With the same act, the 17 departments were merged and restructured into six faculties. The university had also become used to regular cuts of its budget by the federal state of Hamburg. The implementation of the Bologna process was another major point of contention during that decade. Tuition fees were introduced at 500 euros in 2006, but later reduced to 375 euros and fully abolished in 2012.