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28 March 2000

New: Heidelberg University's Research Magazine on the "Love Fallacy", Perfect Vision for Everyone, Breast Cancer, Miletus in the Bronze Age … and Lots More

"Ruperto Carola" 1/2000 features ongoing research projects at the University of Heidelberg—In her Editorial vice-rector Professor Dr. Susanne Weigelin-Schwiedrzik criticises a new instrument in higher education policy: "Target Agreements"—Article by Chief Administrative Officer Romana vom Hagen: The University—an Enterprise?

The choice of a "soul mate" is anything but an entirely personal decision where affection and kismet play the major roles. In the title feature of the new edition of Heidelberg University's research magazine "Ruperto Carola" 1/2000, Thomas Klein of the Institute of Sociology debunks the myths that have gathered around the selection of a partner for life. He describes the decision dictating our choice as a complex tangle of very different criteria in which the arithmetic of the marriage mart is very much the clinching factor. The other topics range from philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer, perfect vision for everyone and Bronze Age Miletus to the question whether breast cancer is a genetic accident. There is also an exciting report from the immunology front: "The Consequences of Inadequate Tolerance: Immune Defence Cells and their Astonishing Sense of Discrimination".

In her Editorial, vice-rector Prof. Dr. Susanne Weigelin-Schwiedrzik criticises the new "Target Agreements": "The universities are allowed to take wing but they can only fly as far as the bars of their cages will let them!"

In the editorial column of the latest edition of "Ruperto Carola", vice-rector Prof. Dr. Susanne Weigelin-Schwiedrzik gives her views on what's behind one of the catchwords of the present-day higher education policy debate in Germany: "Target Agreements". In the vice-rector's opinion, the relationship between the state and the universities is "bogged down in a crisis". The state is dissatisfied with the universities and the universities are unhappy at the way they get treated by the state. The new independence granted the universities is offset by instruments designed to clip their wings. One such instrument, to all appearances, is the concept of "target agreements". In future the universities are called upon to negotiate with the higher education ministries about what the joint aims should be in connection with university development. Funding allocation will depend on the extent to which these agreed targets are actually realised. The vice-rector's criticism is harsh: "Refusing to play along means being a risk for all and sundry. Only if you toe the line can you be sure of not disavowing dean and rector. The university becomes a place where conformism is trumps."

The Heidelberg vice-rector fears that the state may be tempted to use these target agreements to hammer home politically motivated demands in an area hitherto sheltered from political interference. "In the age of target agreements, the autonomy of science and scholarship, so valiantly prized during the Cold War era as the magic formula for the free development of intelligence and creativity in the service of the common weal, is about to be penned into a cage. The universities are allowed to take wing but can only fly as far as the bars of their cages will let them!"

Hans-Georg Gadamer: a life in the service of wisdom

In the first main article of the magazine, Dieter Borchmeyer of the Department of Germanic Studies gives a detailed appreciation of the life and work of the great philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer. Heidelberg University's most revered living scholar celebrated his 100th birthday on 11 February 2000.

Perfect vision for everyone

"If someone were to offer me an optic instrument with so many defects, I would reject it out of hand." This was the famous physicist Hermann von Helmholtz' verdict on the quality of the human eye. Josef Bille of the Kirchhoff Institute of Physics explains in the next article how the inherent deficiencies of the human eye might be rectified. 200-percent vision is the ambitious aim Bille and his co-workers have set themselves. If all goes well, a new measuring system and ultra-short laser rays will soon make "perfect vision for everyone" a viable proposition.

Miletus in the Bronze Age: a thriving centre between East and West

The history of Miletus, the former metropolis on the west coast of Asia minor, began 5,000 years ago. Impressive new finds have come up with the evidence to prove this assertion. Wolf-Dietrich Niemeier of Heidelberg University's Institute of Archaeology describes Miletus' exciting past and the exacting labours of the archaeologists.

The consequences of inadequate tolerance

Our immune system must not only distinguish between "us" and "them", it also has to take snap decisions on whether foreign substances or organisms are useful to us or detrimental. In the first instance, tolerance is of the essence, in the second "stand by to repel boarders" is the motto. Errors in the defence system can have nasty repercussions. Stefan Meuer of the Institute of Immunology describes in the next article how defence cells perform these astonishingly finicky distinctions and the interesting prospects this new view of the immune functions opens up for the therapy of severe chronic inflammatory disorders such as morbus Crohn.

Breast cancer: a genetic accident?

Breast cancer is the most frequent tumour found in women and the external and internal factors underlying it are complex indeed. Among the internal factors are two genes only discovered a few years ago: BRCA1 and BRCA2. It is estimated that changes in these genes are responsible for five to max. ten percent of all breast cancer cases. In the framework of a research project started in 1997 and funded by German Cancer Aid, risk patients have been provided with intensive counselling and care at 11 different medical centres. Eva-Maria Grischke and Theda Voigtländer of Heidelberg's Family Breast Cancer Centre give an interim report on the latest developments.

The university: an enterprise?

Universities produce knowledge. As such they are enterprises dealing in research and teaching, two things inextricably bound up with one another. But where does this put them in connection with such business-management factors as "markets" and "competition"? Do these things actually exist at universities? This is the question addressed by Romana Gräfin vom Hagen, Heidelberg University's Chief Administrative Officer, in the "News and Views" section of the new "Ruperto Carola". Briefly but incisively she points up major differences between universities and the structures and cultures typical of business enterprises. "To ignore or deny these differences is to forget that the efficiency and originality of universities are products of their decentralised structure and flat hierarchies. That does not however mean that adopting tried and tested business management instruments in universities is necessarily a bad investment."

The other permanent columns "Young Scientists Report", "News from the Stiftung Universität Heidelberg Foundation" and "External Funding" round off the magazine. The first of these columns centres on the fascinating giant molecule titin, which plays a major role in the ensemble of muscle proteins alongside myosin and actin.

"Ruperto Carola" is printed by Universitätsverlag C. Winter—Heidelberger Verlagsanstalt. Single copies cost DM 10,- plus postage (DM 5,- for students). Like the special support subscription (DM 60,- for 4 issues), they can be ordered from: Pressestelle der Universität Heidelberg, Postfach 105760, D-69047 Heidelberg. Gratis copies of earlier issues are available for inspection in the foyer of the Old University building (Grabengasse 1).

Please address any inquiries to:
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317
michael.schwarz@rektorat.uni-heidelberg.de


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