Connected to the futureAalen University is celebrating its 60th anniversary

Earlier students | © Aalen University

Mo, 27. March 2023

On April 1st, 1963, lectures at the State Engineering School in Aalen officially started with 32 students. Over the past 60 years, the training center for young engineers has developed into a research talent factory with five faculties, about 70 courses and over 5,000 students. With the motto ”60 years – connected to the future“, Aalen University of Applied Sciences is celebrating its milestone birthday this year. The first event will be an Open Campus (open day and student experience day) on May 6th. A week later, on May 12th, the 60th anniversary of the university is celebrated in an official ceremony with invited guests from politics, business and science.

Those were turbulent times. The Beatles had their musical breakthrough, US President John. F. Kennedy visited Berlin - and in 1963, an engineering school was founded in Aalen. A lot has happened in the past 60 years. The initial 32 students have now grown to over 5,000, who are taking part in about 70 bachelor's or master's degree courses. The university employs around 600 people and 160 professors. The entire East Württemberg region benefits from the specialists trained at Aalen University of Applied Sciences, their research, and the associated transfer of knowledge.

Exciting times

In the 1950s, the founders pushed for the establishment of a state engineering school for many years despite strong resistance. In 1963 the time had come: The first 32 students were able to start their studies on April 1st in provisional barracks on the Aalener Galgenberg. “Those were exciting times, a real pioneer feeling. In summer it was annoyingly hot and in winter frost bloomed on the windows,” Rolf Honold, a former mechanical engineering student, remembers the beginnings. In 1968, they moved to the current building on Beethovenstrasse. It was designed by the architect Günter Behnisch and is now under historical preservation. Klaus Hanemann, a former student of precision engineering (today mechatronics), was one of those who took part in the move: "We didn't even have laboratories in the 'barracks' in Galgenberg, but in the new building there was everything your heart could desire." And he remembers those times: "The student movement was very influential - panel discussions were often heated."

Rapid development

In the following years, the university developed into the largest educational institution in the Ostalb region. In 1971, the engineering school became a university of applied sciences. In 1997, it became Aalen University - Technology and Economics, and in 2010 it became a university of applied sciences. The steady increase in student numbers brought the Behnisch building to the edge of its capacity. Thus, in 2006, the new buildings for the faculties of electronics and computer science as well as optics and mechatronics were opened at Burren in addition to the new library and student residences. The cafeteria, the ophthalmic optics/audiology building and, in 2015, the INNO-Z innovation center were later added to the architectural ensemble. All around Beethovenstrasse, the excavators rolled in again. This time for the new assembly hall and lecture hall building. Opposite the canteen, the hands-on museum explorhino was opened in 2018 and the research building in 2020. And the university is currently in a historical development phase again. The forest campus currently being built and the new home for economics and the International Center will combine with Beethovenstrasse and Burren into a single campus in autumn of this year.

In exchange with business and society

As an important catalyst for innovations, the university provides decisive inspiration for the future viability of the region. The synergies between the university and its regional environment hold enormous potential for innovation. This is also shown by the SmartPro cooperation network, with which the university, together with more than 50 partners from business and science (including Zeiss, Bosch, Varta and Trumpf), develops materials and technologies that are particularly energy efficient. New degree programs – such as digital health management, information design, sustainability technologies or robotics – also respond to current demands from business and society. And, according to university rector Harald Riegel, "eight endowed professorships are currently impressive proof of the trust that companies and municipal partners have in the university".

Whether it's research, teaching, the extensive range of courses on offer - including for working professionals with the Graduate Campus, the promotion of young talent in the STEM field, the development into an international university with over 130 partnerships worldwide, or the Start-Up campus with an active start-up scene - Aalen University is an educational institution, true to its anniversary motto: "60 years - connected to the future".