On the second leg (after Brazil) of his journey to South America, Minister-President Erwin Teufel paid a visit to the Chilean capital, Santiago de Chile. Among the delegation accompanying him were prominent state politicians including the minister for culture, youth and sport, Dr. Annette Schavan, the chairman of the FDP/DVP group in the state parliament, Ernst Pfister, and the head of the ministry of state, state secretary Rudolf Böhmler. Further members of the delegation were representatives of over 30 medium-sized companies and seven rectors of higher-education institutions of the state of Baden-Württemberg. The Heidelberg delegation was made up of rector Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff, vice-rector Prof. Dr. Silke Leopold and Albrecht Bayer of Heidelberg Alumni International.
On the minister-president's agenda were talks with Chilean state president Ricardo Lagos, the former state presidents Patricio Aylwin and Eduardo Frei, the chairman of the Chilean Christian Democrat party, Adolfo Zaldivar, and the new minister of education, Sergio Bitar. While the business delegation was establishing promising contacts with Chilean companies at the Cooperation Exchange organised by Baden-Württemberg's Society for Economic Cooperation, the academic party concentrated on the Heidelberg Center Latin America, the first postgraduate and continuing education centre maintained by a German university outside Germany. Here, in the presence of the minister-president, expanded cooperation treaties were signed with the Medical Faculties of the Catholic University and the University of Chile and with the Law Faculty of the University of Chile.
Rector Hommelhoff began his address with greetings addressed to the minister-president, his counterparts from the two Chilean partner universities, the deans and heads of department present, the representatives of the Chilean economy and various alumni of the University of Heidelberg. For Heidelberg's rector, the Latin America Center is a "strategic investment in the future", aiming at "exporting study offerings from the University of Heidelberg to Latin America
in collaboration with our Chilean partners." He went on to mention plans to open up the Heidelberg Center to other universities of Baden-Württemberg, which could use the Center as a platform for the exportation of their own study offerings. This would make an extension of the present Center necessary. For Hommelhoff the newly mounted plaque with the state coat of arms and the legend "Baden-Württemberg" is programmatic. If the efforts to acquire the neighbouring building are crowned with success, then it would be possible to set up a "Baden-Württemberg block" under the roof of the Heidelberg Center.
The director of the Heidelberg Center, Dr. Walter Eckel, reported on the activities in the first year of its existence. Alongside the master's degree course on European Political Studies, for which 26 students registered, there were six continuing education seminars and four ancillary courses for German as a foreign language. 300 postgraduates took part in the continuing education seminars on medical informatics, medical treatment for premature babies and neonates, systemic family therapy, comparative security policy and the lecture course on "The New Europe and Latin America". In both semesters, 50 students from partner universities attended the German courses as preparation for study sojourns at the University of Heidelberg and other German universities.
Dr. Eckel went on to say that the Heidelberg Center had established itself ideally in a very short time. This year, the number of continuing education seminars on medicine, law and psychiatry will be doubled and a new master's degree course on international law will be developed. This course is addressed to students from all over South America and is masterminded by the Law Faculties of the University of Heidelberg and the University of Chile, in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute of Foreign Public Law and International Law and the International Studies Centre of the University of Chile.
Eckel thanked the minister-president and the representatives of the state government for their generous support. Minister-president Teufel was impressed by the work done so far and displayed his gratitude for the high degree of interest shown by the Chilean public with an impressive address on "The Future of Europe". The professions and insights of the convinced European Erwin Teufel were acquitted with a lengthy round of applause. The subsequent reception at the residence of the German Embassy was a social event of the first quality. The large number of prominent representatives of political, economic and academic life left no doubt about the high esteem in which Baden-Württemberg is held in Chile. Rector Hommelhoff will no doubt have been especially gratified by the statement made by Dieter Haller of the German Embassy in his address: "The Heidelberg Center is the most important investment in the future made by Germany last year in Chile!"
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