“The German research system is one of the most empowered in the world”
Prof. Dr Javier Andreu Pintado, Historian at Universidad de Navarra in Pamplona/Spain
2007/2008 Humboldt Fellow at Heidelberg University, January to May 2020 research visit at the Department of Ancient History and Epigraphy
When, how long and in what position did you stay at Heidelberg University?
I've been in Heidelberg from January until the end of May 2020 as a visiting scholar with a scholarship funded by the Spanish Government for mobility of senior researchers as part of the "Salvador de Madariaga" program, a scholarship which is very acclaimed and well considered in Spain. It was possible also because of a permission from my local institution, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Navarra where I'm actually teaching Ancient History.
Why did you decide in favour of Heidelberg University?
I was a Humboldtian in Heidelberg around fifteen years ago, so I've had previous knowledge about the city and about the research conditions of the University. During my years as doctoral student at the University of Zaragoza some of my professors used to go to the Seminar für Alte Geschichte in Heidelberg because of its library and, of course, because of the presence of Prof. Dr Dr h.c. mult. Géza Alföldy. Prof. Alföldy, unfortunately, passed away some years ago – but the Seminar für Alte Geschichte, in fact, as far as I know, has the best library in Ancient History, Epigraphy and Archaeology in Europe maybe only in competition with Oxford. Apart from that, the library is also visited every year by many scholars and Prof. Dr Ch. Witschel is always open to receive visiting scholars. Finally, all the facilities of the University (including the Universitätsbibliothek, the mensas and the foreign office department) are also remarkable for turning easy to deal with your daily life.
What did you like best about being in Heidelberg? What suggestions would you have for improvements?
The opportunity of focusing myself on research, with many resources, a very fantastic and free-accessed library and all of that in a very charming, inviting and comfortable city with a very special academic environment. In my case, when I reached Heidelberg in January, I knew many things a visiting scholar has to know to spend a fruitful time at Heidelberg University because of my previous stays. But it would be very useful, in institutes like the one in Ancient History, which receives many visitors every month, to have a person in charge of the reception of visiting scholars as a way to welcome them and to help them with the typical first-days trivia.
How did your career continue after your time in Heidelberg?
Back to my University – which was awarded at the third position in the Europe Teaching Rankings of Times Higher Education Ranking last year – we're now working on how to deal with the Covid-crisis as a way to improve – even more! – our teaching system putting the students in the center of our attention in a very personal and collaborative way. In fact, I've learned many things about that also during that period in Germany looking at how teaching has changed because of the crisis. In July I will continue working in the direction of a fieldwork in the Roman city of Los Bañales de Uncastillo, in Spain, a very impressive imperial Roman city we're digging on from 2009. I also hope to publish the results of the research I've done during those months (focused on development and decline of cities during the High-Empire, in Roman times from the Flavian to the Severian period) probably in a monographic book and, of course, in different papers and periodicals. The research stays at Heidelberg University have always been very inspiring for my daily work as researcher and Ancient History teacher. And there are many things still to improve learning from a lead-University as Heidelberg definitely is.
What is your view of the German scientific system in comparison to that of your home country or to that of other countries where you may have conducted research?
I think in Germany research and science and, in particular, humanistic and historical subjects, really matter in the scientific system but also in society. All the facilities given to the scientific system are very strong, and also the impressions I've taken out from the relationship with my German colleagues is that the scientific system encourages many of its members to do their best. After research stays - also very inspiring and fruitful - in Portugal or in the United Kingdom, I think the German research system is one of the most perfect and empowered systems in the world, at least from my point of view. In fact, the long tradition in Ancient History and in Roman History in German academic institutions makes you feel valued when you do your research and when you interact with local scholars. Apart from that, the teaching system, with the student in the center learning, in fact, by himself, is very exciting.
In your opinion, what is the importance of international exchanges for researchers?
Today's role as University teachers is very complicated but stimulating. Sometimes you need time to teach and to prepare your teaching, sometimes you have to manage things related to your department, your faculty or your own projects and sometimes, of course, you've to concentrate yourself on research which is the main source of inspiration for your daily teaching. To have the opportunity, by the generosity of my local institution and the support of the Spanish Ministry of Education, to dedicate almost six months of my academic year, in this case, to focus myself on research has been a very fantastic opportunity.
Do you recommend a research visit to Heidelberg University to your students or to colleagues in your scientific network?
Of course, and I usually do. German language, sometimes, seems to be a problem but the hospitality of the city and of its people and, of course, the conditions of the library are quintessential ingredients for making your research visit to Heidelberg a very fantastic experience. In fact, I encourage my students, and in particular my doctoral students, to apply to German scholarships and take part in the adventure and privilege of researching in Germany and, in this case, in particular, in Heidelberg.