The Marsilius Kolleg as a Centre for Advanced Study, focusing on interdisciplinary dialogue and basic research
Scholarship nowadays is characterised by growing specialisation. This trend seems to be unavoidable, if we want to secure scientific progress and enhance our knowledge. Excellent scholarly performance is generally the result of disciplinary specialization.
Yet this trend has also deepened the gulf between the disciplines. Sciences and humanities can hardly communicate. This divide exists not only between these ‘two cultures’. It also exists, for example, between them and law, economics and social sciences. In addition, institutional barriers reinforce this divide. Scholarly cultures are therefore largely isolated from one another, and this holds true for the University of Heidelberg as well.
On the other hand, scholars today are confronted with a host of theoretical and practical problems that cannot be solved by one discipline alone. These problems cut across disciplines and must be addressed from an interdisciplinary point of view. It remains true that interdisciplinary encounters must be based on disciplinary competence. But it is becoming ever more urgent for scholars to collaborate across disciplines – starting precisely from their specific area of expertise.
The Marsilius Kolleg at Heidelberg University is an institutional response to this situation. It has a dual purpose: to promote dialogue between members of different disciplines and scholarly cultures, and to initiate and implement interdisciplinary research projects.
However, the Marsilius Kolleg is neither a traditional research institute, nor a research-funding organisation. It is a Centre for Advanced Study, designed to promote the exchange of ideas between scholars from the most diverse disciplines and to develop joint research projects. Every year 12 to 15 fellows are to be admitted to advance these purposes. With the Marsilius Kolleg the University wants to accomplish new levels of cooperation between its disciplines and scholarly cultures.
The University of Heidelberg regards itself as a comprehensive public university of the future, where all important scholarly cultures are represented at a high level. They are called upon to develop according to their own needs. However, this should not take place in mutual isolation. If the potential of the comprehensive university of the future is to be fully exploited, there must be more interconnection between disciplines and scholarly cultures. And this ought to be achieved on the basis of specialization, not at their expense. It will be necessary, therefore, to steer a course between narrow-minded specialisation and unfounded generalization.
In the five years of its funding untill 2012, over 50 Heidelberg scholars from a wide range of disciplines will become fellows and thereby establish new personal and, above all, new research connections. This should have an impact on the University as a whole. At any rate, the Marsilius Kolleg strives for unity in diversity instead of mere diversity without unity.