For 100 years, we have been providing support to many thousands of students. Accommodation, meals, student financing, social counselling and childcare – for fellow students today, these are all part and parcel of a successful course of study. In 1922, when our institution was founded as a self-help organisation by students for students, things were quite different. Find out more about our history, from then to now:
Studentenhilfe (‘Student Aid’) Münster - organised solidarity: 1922-29
A few years after the end of the First World War, the existential need of students was great, also in Münster. Usually, students had to work next to their studies, but there were hardly any jobs. To actively express solidarity with students, the “Verein Studentenhilfe Münster” (‘Student Aid Association’) was founded on 17 February 1922.
In 1922, more than 2,700 students were studying at Münster’s university, and while Germany was drifting towards inflation, it became increasingly difficult for these students to cope with the growing existential troubles on their own. This desperate situation called for a new form of organisation to cope with the task of “promoting the self-help efforts of students and creating and maintaining facilities to manage the students’ plight”, according to the statutes of the Student Help Association
The association immediately joined the “Wirtschaftshilfe der Deutschen Studentenschaft e.V.” (‘Economic Aid of the German Student Body, registered association’) in Berlin, the umbrella organisation of the local student aid organisations (from 1929 Deutsches Studentenwerk e.V. ‘German Student Union, registered association’). With the participation of the medical clinic in Münster, it was possible to set up an urgently needed health care system including academic health insurance. In these years, tuberculosis was widespread, and students had to undergo serial clinical X-ray examinations in the first and fifth semesters. For students who had fallen ill or who were at high risk, tuberculosis treatments had to be organised and their financing secured by the health authorities through the association.
In the early 1920s, housing for students was particularly scarce. A report by the former “studentisches Wohnungsamt” (‘student housing office’) from 1919, whose sole task before the founding of the association was to register and procure “housing for students discharged from military service”, mentions even then a veritable influx of masses of soldiers to Münster, who were competing with the university’s increasing number of students for the scarce supply of – according to the office’s regulations – “healthy, comfortable, reasonably priced and morally impeccable housing”. The military was given priority.
In 1919, there was a shortage of 1,000 flats for students, and the situation was not much better in 1922 or in the following years. In those years, there was no thought of the association having its own canteen. In the 1920s, there was only one so-called “academic kitchen” in the basement of a university building on Domplatz, which was converted into a “Schlemmerkeller” (‘feast basement’) by the university after difficult procurement of state funds and kitchen equipment. In this 250 m² space, a warm meal could be served twice a day for 300 students each.
A little light, a new home for the Student Aid and dark shadows: 1930-39
At the beginning of 1930, solidarity with students in need still took place in civil society and the successful work of the association increasingly received democratic institutionalised support. From 1933 onwards, the principle of humanistic emergency aid was ideologically occupied by the Nazi dictatorship and the development was overshadowed for years by the Gleichschaltung (‘enforced conformity’) of the student associations and aid organisations.
Before 1933, with the support of the university’s curator, the Student Aid Association moved into the former Strandcafé at the Aasee. With numerous financial aids from the city, the province of Westphalia and the German Student Union, the building at Bismarckallee was acquired and successfully converted into the “Student House” by many craftsmen from Münster and the surrounding area. This works contract also helped workers in need, and the association was thus able to show itself for the first time – at least temporarily – as an independent player with economic significance for the region. At the beginning of 1932, the canteen was reopened here, now seating 400 students who were served by temporary student workers.
All the other facilities of the association were on the 1st floor. There was a library with a reading room, the business premises with a “Vergünstigungsamt” (‘price reduction office’) for purchasing inexpensive textbooks, a “Schreibstube” (‘writing room’) where students wrote final papers for students on the side, a student “Aküdo” (‘Academic Translation and Interpreting Service’) and the student “Arbeitsvermittlungsamt” (‘employment office’) as well as the student “Wohnungsamt” (‘housing office’). In the Aküdo, students produced work for the university and for other clients, while in the housing office acted as a broker for vacant rooms. In the employment office, opportunities were found for students to earn extra money. The association provided financial support in individual cases through “Freitische” (‘free tables’) in the canteen, grants and short-term loans and, in connection with the loan fund of the German Student Union, long-term loans for examination semesters. At that time, the association was run by only eleven full-time employees and numerous student workers.
From 1933 onwards, all local student aid organisations were restructured centrally and brought into line with the “Reichsverordnung zur Bildung des Reichsstudentenwerks” (‘Reich ordinance on the formation of the Reich Student Union’) on 2 November 1943. The Student Aid Association was transformed into a Nazi service office as “Studentenwerk Münster e.V.” (‘Student Union Münster, registered association’). Right next door, in the adjacent building on Bismarckallee, the NSDAP district house with a district student alliance leader was located. From that moment on, students were to do a “voluntary” half-year of work in the German Labour Service and the Student Union was to “enable worthy comrades to study so that they would contribute to the renewal of the nation and of the sciences”. Criteria for worthiness were, among others, “physical and mental perfection to the exclusion of one-sided disposition, a lifestyle full of character, such as in the HJ (‘Hitler Youth’) and the SA (‘paramilitary branch of the NSDAP’)”.
Decline and new beginning: 1940-49
One year after the start of the war, only 2,000 students were enrolled at Münster’s university out of a previous total of around 5,000, and shortly before Germany’s surrender, only two “medical companies released by the troops” were still taking advantage of the student aid before the Student House at Aasee was destroyed by bombs in 1945 and the university was closed. Just a few months later, however, the British military government authorised the resumption of teaching and, with the support of professors, students and sponsors, the Student Aid Association was revived.
Thanks to the funds released by the British from the former Student Union, it was possible to open a makeshift canteen with 98 seats in the basement of the former district court on Roxeler Street in November 1945. Under continuous rationing of food, 1,000 meals were cooked daily on a single coal cooker. The means of payment were meal vouchers procured by the Student Aid Association. In greatest need, the university principal himself, together with the chairman of the Student Aid Association, drove to the rural surroundings of Münster in an Opel Blitz, to provide the hungry students with potatoes, while the Student Aid Association generously handed out food and clothing donations from the USA, Sweden, Norway and Ireland. The Norwegians sent herrings, the Irish bacon, and thanks to a donation from Sweden, free stew was served in the Frankonenhaus on Himmelreichallee. The students expressed their gratitude with humorous reports and photographs of the association’s work and student life.
Those who wanted to be admitted to university, had to do six months of reconstruction work on the destroyed university buildings and the Student House; Students with a physical disability did compensatory service in the administration of the Student Aid. The organisation worked from a single office in the basement of the Hüfferstift. As student housing, canteen and social officers, they procured housing and food or took responsibility for the health care of fellow students released from war hospitals and captivity.
It was the time of emergency accommodation. Initially, 80 students could be accommodated in an air-raid shelter in Gievenbeck (two each in a windowless room of 7 m²). Room was found for another 50 students in draughty Wehrmacht barracks in Buldern Castle. The former Reiter barracks on Steinfurter Straße and the Frankonenhaus on Himmelreichallee accommodated 162 students. Rebuilding the Student House was only made possible in the years 1946-1948 through the special commitment of Prof. Dr. Walther Hoffmann, who approached the military government and the NRW Ministry of Culture on behalf of the association. The military government then granted building licence No. 1a in Westphalia and the Ministry granted a subsidy of 100,000 Reichsmarks. Prof. Hoffmann also acquired a large part of the additional money and building materials needed as donations.
From Student Aid to Student Union: 1950-59
With political stabilisation and the “economic miracle”, the tasks of the Student Aid also grew and in 1953 demanded consolidation of the work structure and more state funding. A new constitution and renaming to Studentenwerk e.V. (Student Union, registered association) formed the basis for further development.
In the main phase of the economic miracle, not only did the productivity of the young Federal Republic of Germany grow to an unspeakable 150%, but in Münster alone the number of students doubled to almost 10,000 by the end of the 1950s. Therefore, the work of the Student Union at that time was not only characterised by the construction of residence halls, the design of the first canteen offers and the establishment of a doctor’s station within the framework of student health care, but also, from 1957 onwards, by the assumption of responsibility for state student funding according to the Honnef model.
In addition, the Student Union was able to revive the idea of a college and the culture of “Studium Generale” including student self-administration through tutors and study groups in the residence halls and having lunch and dinner together in a canteen.
In 1950-1953, three new residence halls were successfully constructed, the Gartenhaus (‘garden house’) on the rear property of Bismarckallee 11b, the new Aaseehaus and the Westfalenhaus at Bismarckallee 3 and 5. By the end of the 1950s, simple but relatively comfortable accommodation was available for almost 380 students. With the rapid growth in student numbers, the first canteen quickly reached its capacity limit in the mid-1950s and had to be expanded extensively and modernised. At the same time, the offer was changed to self-service. Guests collected their food themselves at the serving counter, while the staff continued to be responsible for returning the dirty dishes. The offer became much richer and an evening table with a choice of several menus was added.
The student health service (SKV) with a doctor’s station and X-ray and laboratory room continued to be part of the tasks. The employees also issued sickness certificates for external doctor’s consultations and recorded accident reports and forwarded them to the former cooperatively working Allianz insurance company. The services of the Student Union Münster attracted attention of politicians. The Federal President at that time, Professor Dr. Theodor Heuß, was impressed during a visit to the Student Union and a tour of the Student House with its canteen and the just-completed residence halls “Aaseehauskolleg” and “Westfalenhaus” as early as 1953.
Rising student numbers, expansion and reform processes against the education crisis: 1960-69
While the West German Principals’ Conference declared in the 1950s that the higher education system was “essentially sound”, the ’68 Revolution proved the opposite. The 1960s were a period of expansion, during which the social security of students from as many social classes as possible and the work of the Student Unions also became increasingly important for stabilising of the democratisation process in the FRG.
With the beginning of the 1960s, state subsidies for the social security of students increased because the number of students doubled again in this decade, to almost 20,000. During this time, the accommodation supply of the Student Union almost tripled. At the end of 1968, they were already providing accommodation for over 1,000 students in more than 800 residencies.
In the years up to 1966 alone, based on an acquired hereditary building right, the largest student housing estate of the Student Union, “Wilhelmskamp”, was built on Steinfurter Straße with a total of 600 places in five residential towers. In 1962, the Student Union also acquired a building on Scharnhorststraße from the “Deutsches Heim” (“German home”). After reconstruction and renovation, a range of double and single rooms for 66 students was created, for the first time for female students only. In the course of the internationalisation of the university, the Student Union’s range of accommodation became more international too. At Bismarckallee 47 a new so-called international student residence with 108 places was built on a previously municipal property. As of 1 May 1966, half of the spaces could be occupied by students from all over the world.
With this expansion, the Student Union was increasingly required to subject the use of the public subsidies to public law rules. However, it took until the middle of the next decade for the staff of then 105 employees to at least gain some long-deserved public recognition in this special field of tension and some relief through a new legal form.
Accordingly, the need to expand the good canteen services of the Student Union was successively recognised in the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). On 3 November 1969, the Ministry they appointed the Student Union as the builder of Mensa II, which took another 10 years to complete successfully. At the same time, the kitchen capacity of Mensa I at the Aasee was again expanded and its seating capacity increased to more than 1,200 seats. In 1969, over 700,000 meals were served here.
In the summer semester of 1969, the first day-care centre of the Student Union opened with a total of 60 places. After initial problems with politicised student parents, who rather wanted an “anti-authoritarian childcare centre”, became popular in Münster and for the whole state of North Rhine-Westphalia thanks to its special educational concept and an innovative way of working.
Growth and change in the course of the opening of the higher education institutions: 1970-79
In 1971, the University of Applied Sciences, the Academy of Fine Arts and the Philosophical-Theological University of Münster were opened with a total of around 2,500 students. By the end of 1979, more than 12,000 additional students had registered with the WWU. All these students were henceforth supported socially, culturally and financially by the Student Union. With the immense growth of the tasks resulting from the politically intended opening of the higher education institutions, the 1970s were a time of great change for the Student Union Münster. Those years were marked by special challenges and the necessity of drastic organisational change.
Since 1957, the Student Union had been responsible for student financing according to the Honnef model. In 1971, the new Federal Training Assistance Act (BAföG) became effective. The Student Union Münster was not prepared for the resulting changes, neither in terms of personnel nor technically. This resulted in immense burdens for the staff for several years, until the first digital solutions for this major task could be successfully developed and introduced.
However, it is also thanks to the Student Union that the long, “rocky” road to the BAföG was finally taken successfully. With their first social survey to the West German Principals’ Conference (WRK) in 1952, the Student Support Services showed that students were hardly benefiting from the beginning economic miracle and were only inadequately reached by the social benefits that had existed up to that point.
It was only after the VDS (Vereinigung der Deutschen Studentenschaften = Association of German Student Unions) had backed its demand for reorganisation of study financing by threatening lecture strikes, when the “Honnef Model” was introduced in 1957. However, it took another 14 years before there was a legally enforceable right to financial support for studies, because with the new BAföG this was made legally binding (depending on the amount of parental income) in 1971. One year later, 44.6 per cent of all students were already supported with BAföG payments, a peak that has never been reached again. That year, 20 new positions were created at the Student Support Union Münster, whose employees have already processed over 22,000 applications.
In the course of the opening of the higher education institutions with now more than 39,000 students in Münster, subsidies from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia were paid to institutions under public law only from 1974 onwards. This resulted in having to change from “Verein Studentenwerk Münster” to its legal form “Studentenwerk Münster AöR” on 1 March 1974. With the takeover of the federal tasks of the BAföG, as well as with the takeover of four more housing complexes from the state-owned HFG (Hochschul- und Finanzierungsgesellschaft = higher education and financing company), the new legal form also increased financing and legal security. By the end of 1979, the housing supply had, partly due to the approximately 2,500 places of HFG, grown to about 4,900 places. Most of those living spaces were no longer single rooms with an external communal kitchen and bathroom but were now offered in apartment style with their own shower and cooking facilities.
"Higher Education for All" Influences the work of the Student Union: 1980-89
With the goal of equal educational opportunities for all population groups, the policy of “open access to higher education” was also in Münster further implemented in the 1980s. At the University of Applied Sciences Münster alone, the number of students at the end of this decade was 300% higher than at the end of the 1970s, and at the WWU around 40% more students were enrolled. By continually expanding the necessary social infrastructure, the Student Union made an indispensable contribution to the development and safeguarding of equal opportunities for the more than 50,000 students at that time.
At the end of the 1980s, the supply quota of affordable housing for students in Münster of the Student Union was over 12%, a figure that was only reached at a few other university locations in NRW. As a representative for all students in Münster, the Student Union always helped to finance the social survey. With their proactive work for student accommodation, they also exercised a very important regulatory function for the development of the entire student housing market. Unfortunately, this supply quota has been reduced by the successive withdrawal from student housing financing of the state of NRW.
The 1980s were also the heyday for the university catering of the Student Union Münster. In spring 1980, the new student canteen at Coesfelder Kreuz was hailed as a “successful ensemble of technical necessity for modern production processes with a customer-friendly interior for 3,800 guests” – and from then on around 12,000 meals were served every day.
As early as the mid-1980s, the catering facilities of the Student Union in Münster and Steinfurt prepared 3.5 million meals per year, before these figures declined due to streamlined study timetables and a parallel change in dietary preferences. The competition did not sleep either and offered this interesting target group of students the opportunity to get food and snacks outside the canteens but close to the higher education institutions.
In Münster, as in all other study locations in the FRG, this change was also due to the steady increase in number of students who had to work next to their studies. Only three years after its introduction, BAföG was no longer a full subsidy, according to political will from the mid-1970s onwards. After the first loan components were introduced, the proportion of students supported by BAföG was only 30.3% in 1982 and fell to 18.3% by 1989 as a result of the so-called BAföG “cutback”, in which BAföG was only granted as a full loan from 1982 onwards.
Economic orientation of the business policy: 1990-99
At the end of 1992, the German Principals’ Conference (Hochschulrektorenkonferenz) complained of a financing deficit of the higher education system of about 10 billion DM (Deutsche Mark = German Mark) and therefore called for a discussion about its future. This was because at the beginning of the decade, more than 1.7 million students were enrolled in Germany, 75% more than at the time of the opening decision in 1977. In NRW, this led to the amendment to the Studentenwerkgesetz (Student Union Act) in 1994, which demanded a serious reorientation of the business policy of the Student Union in order to take care of the more than 50,000 students in Münster.
Basically, the Student Union was given conditional entrepreneurial freedom with the amendment of the Student Union Act which was accompanied by a change from a shortfall to fixed-amount financing by the state. This was a questionable freedom because for the first time, “turnover per student” became at least proportionally relevant for subsidies. Therefore, a proactive reorientation of business activities was required, with which the Student Union was to develop into a truly modern service provider through its own initiative and through competition-oriented diversification of its services.
However, the initial situation and the general conditions for the required innovation were anything but favourable and a special challenge. The renovation backlog for an outdated housing offer was immense. With the outdated production and service technology of the canteens, cafeterias and so-called “refreshment rooms”, it was not possible to offer a differentiated range of services.
Loan-based investments of their own were necessary to expand the infrastructure since the state gradually withdrew from grant funding. Even partial financing for student housing was only possible in exceptional cases. At the same time, younger generations of students no longer wanted to live in old housing complexes with 10 m² single rooms and shared sanitary facilities which initially led to large vacancies in the residence halls. Students demanded more spacious and better-equipped apartments as well as single or double apartments with their own kitchen and bathroom.
In response to the immense investment backlog, the Student Union made its own investments of around 89.8 million euros in the housing sector in the period 1994-2016. These were always used proportionately for a more efficient and thus more ecological energy supply. As early as 1998, the first of four block heating stations was built in the housing complex on Gescherweg. Almost 90% of the produced energy could be used. This reduced CO2 emissions by up to 40%.
From the mid-1990s onwards, intensive conceptual work was carried out for the development of further business areas. New target groups opened up for the catering services and created the basis for making the Student Union successively more competitive through greater market and customer orientation. In 1997, during the first renovation of the Mensa am Ring, a storefront with a wide range of offers, not only for students, was set up at the same time. Also, an outdated cafeteria was converted into the Viva Sport & Culture Café for a wider audience.
With the new Student Union Act, from 1994 onwards, students were for the first time involved in decisions on the development of the services through equal participation in the administrative board of the Student Union. This was deliberately intended by the legislator in order to continue to consider the social situation of the students despite a new, more economic orientation. The services of the Student Union were to continuously be designed in a socially acceptable way in accordance with the social mandate of the state.
Stable prices and new social services: 2000-09
It is not the wind but the sails that determine the course. This was the motto of the Student Union’s mission statement in Münster during the first years of the Bologna Process. While students demanded more social relief, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia at the same time demanded a more economic orientation of the higher education institutions and student unions. This development called for a particularly creative and interest-balancing business policy.
The lack of flexibility of the new study and examination structure after Bologna resulted in an additional economic, psychological and time burden on students, who demanded already in 2000, a “reform of the reform” and social relief. According to the results of the 16th DSW Social Survey, at the beginning of 2000 more than two thirds of all students had to spend more than 45 hours a week on their studies and a proportionate eight hours on gainful employment to support themselves. Therefore, the aim of the Student Union was to increase the range of social services for students at stable prices.
The urgently needed refurbishment and modernisation of the canteens, bistros and cafés required an investment of over 21 million euros, a pat of which was always used for the installation of new technology for energy generation and self-sufficiency. The installation of two photovoltaic systems on the building at Bismarckallee 5 in 2000, and on the roof of the Mensa am Ring in 2002, was a pioneering step.
In 2003, during the renovation of the Mensa am Aasee, the kitchen was modernised, and the service area was converted to a free-flow system, which allowed guests to move freely between different serving stations and to compose their own individual menu. A second row of shops was set up in direct connection with the new canteen and an additional café, the “Uferlos”, was opened. With a varied range of events, such as freshmen parties or public soccer viewings, the Uferlos became an established location not only among students and university members, but also in Münster’s gastronomic landscape.
During these years, the long-standing plans for a centralisation of all administrative facilities of the Student Union could finally be implemented. The University of Münster had long wanted a new, additional guesthouse and the idea of combining the centralisation with a new service, initially conceived only for the WWU, was widely approved by the Administrative Board. Since the student residences Westfalenhaus and Aaseehaus at Bismarckallee 3 and 5 could no longer be renovated for use in an economically viable way. With a comprehensive conversion of the Aaseehaus, synergistic potential was tapped for two goals at once. The ground floor and first floor were used for the administration of the Student Union, and the second floor and previously unused attic were converted into the new “agora: Hotel” and guesthouse in a prime location at the Aasee. Since its opening in 2004, the hotel has always been very well occupied.
For the Student Union as the largest landlord of student housing in Münster, the Bologna Process also resulted in a special social responsibility for international students. In 2005, 50% was rented out to students from abroad. In view of the results of the “Eurostudent” study, Achim Meyer auf der Heyde, Secretary General of the German Student Union and former President of the ECstA (European Council for Student Affairs), demanded in 2005: “The social situation of students must finally be taken into account, otherwise there is a threat for all of Europe regarding what today still applies to university access in Germany: good chances have those who come from an educated and financially secure family”.
The new social problems for students that arose with the Bologna Process were very complex for German students and especially for international students. Therefore, the Student Union Münster set up a new social counselling centre in 2005, which has since been providing intensive counselling on topics such as starting and finishing a degree, general university and social law issues, finances (including support through free canteen meals, student loans and children’s meal ID), personal problems, getting a job, health insurance and residence regulations. Additionally, a residence tutoring programme with special cultural and leisure activities is implemented which is supported by international students.
With three other best-practice examples, the Student Union, which by its own admission was “forced to be creative” at the time, showed how the investment backlog in the housing sector in particular could be countered economically through unconventional concepts. The first example was a public-private partnership for the new construction of the residential complex at Scharnhorststraße 10, which was completed in 2004. Instead of renovating a 60-year-old building at great expense and without a sustainable increase in value or prospective increase in attractiveness, this project was realised with an investor without any public subsidies. The advantages: The construction was carried out according to the specifications of the Student Union. They own the property until 2024 and are also responsible for maintenance and management. The risk was hedged by the investor, who granted a buy-back option at the end of the contract period. The result is a residential complex with a modern ambience close to the city centre. The flats are very popular among female students and have been fully let since the opening.
Another project, the student residency at Bismarckallee 47-51, stands for a particular creative approach to difficult external conditions. The principle was “front financed back” and prevented the total loss of three other residential buildings from the 1960s and 1970s. The complete renovation of the houses in the prime Aasee location alone would have cost tens of millions of euros. Heating, windows, kitchen and sanitary facilities, pipes and the façade were in such a state of disrepair they would not have survived the winter of 2006 without a complete refurbishment – and students would not have been able to bear the resulting rent increases. Part of this project was therefore to expand the new guesthouse & hotel business with conference facilities by adding a second guesthouse, today’s “SeeZeit”. In addition to a hotel area, 56 residential units with balconies overlooking the lake were created in the front part of the building, as well as additional inexpensive guesthouse rooms and single rooms and flats for students at the rear. All residential units are rented out – and since 2008, SeeZeit has been achieving an above-average occupancy rate in the hotel market. Revenues were also used to refinance the modernisation measures for the student housing complex at the rear. For the heat supply, geothermal energy was used for the first time.
Following the first PPP model of the Student Union, a solution was found for the largest student residency on Wilhelmskamp. After almost 40 years of use without public subsidies, this was extensively renovated with the participation of an investor. Following a “sale and lease back” it was modernised in a way that is just as fit for the future in terms of living arrangements and furnishing. In March 2007, students moved into new flats and shared flats.
In 2007, the time compression caused by the Bologna Process was particularly stressing for students with children. There was a lack of flexible childcare facilities. Within only seven months, the Student Union built its second day care centre, the day care Chamäleon located in the Gievenbeck district. This meant that their only day care centre to date, Tausendfüßler, which had been providing 48 places for students’ children at the university location in Münster since 1969, could be expanded by another 60 places and from then on, also for the staff of the universities. With the opening of the Chamäleon day care centre, another particularly flexible and forward-looking childcare concept was implemented in a new building with a low-energy standard. But the architecture of this day care centre, which was designed by the office of Hartig und Wömpner, was forward-looking too. On 27 September 2010, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Energy, Building, Housing and Transport and the Chamber of Architects of North Rhine-Westphalia awarded the Chamäleon day care centre the title of “Exemplary Building in NRW 2010”. The jury was impressed by the fact that the building complex, which is reminiscent of a tent landscape, provided an appropriate place for children to play and learn, and that it integrated the important outdoor space in a self-evident way. Since, according to a study, 60 % of students with children face difficulties to combine childcare and studies, the Student Union opened the Zwergenstübchen at Bismarckallee 3 at the same time. This functions as an emergency childcare centre with another 9 places and flexible childcare options.
Multi-layered change and flexible housing concepts: 2010-19
In 2012, the education period for young academics in Germany was still very long compared to the EU’s Bologna process. Therefore, the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs introduced a school reform with a Gymnasium school period shortened by one year and a resulting double Abitur (baccalaureate) year. The higher education institutions in Münster expected a short-term “run on studies” until 2015 – and the Student Union expected a housing shortage. The basis was a statistical forecast by the federal government which was soon outdated, because the number of students in Münster continued to grow, and the tasks of “coping with the student housing shortage” once again determined the business policy of the Student Union.
Two trend-setting student housing projects
During this time, the focus of the Student Union for the necessary housing development was initially on the demolition and new construction of two housing complexes from the early 1970s. Flexible utilisation concepts in particular were booming for the planning with corresponding support for public housing. In the context of the double Abitur year, these projects were not able to increase the supply, but at least part of the urgent need was met with 850 new places. Just in time for the start of the 2012/13 winter semester, students were able to move into the first completed blocks of a new and pioneering energy-efficient housing complex at Horstmarer Landweg 250-262 with a sustainability class kfw 50. At the opening, representatives of two ministries were pleased with the successful project, which was financed with funds from NRW Bank and designed in such a way that, in the event of a decline in student numbers, the living space can also be rented out to senior citizens, single parents or families. But first, the students were happy about a new offer of generously sized single flats, two-room flats and shared flats, for which they had to pay only around 265 euros rent per person, including all additional costs.
The second building project – a project realised according to award-winning designs by the architectural office Kresing – was to replace the old building at Boeselager Str. 69-75, which was no longer suitable for renovation and had previously been affectionately called “Boeselburg” (“Boesel castle”) by the students. The planning and realisation were carried out according to the criteria of the “State Competition for Innovative Forms of Housing for Students in Mixed Neighbourhoods”. This envisaged funding in accordance with the public housing regulations, including the possibility of renting to non-student target groups in a multigenerational neighbourhood. With the use of the latest technology and thermal insulation, the largest passive house settlement in Europe at the time was created. It was awarded a prize by the state initiative klima.expo NRW shortly after.
Temporary housing cooperations
In 2012, the Student Union offered over 70% of its living space for up to €250 rent, including additional costs, and thus continued to play an indispensable role in regulating rent levels at the higher education location, despite the decreasing supply rate. However, since its own supply could not meet the demand, the Student Union realised some external cooperations with owners of living space, which could then be used by students with the support and administration of the Student Union. A nationwide lighthouse project during 2012 – 2016 was a successful letting of 63 terraced houses, in which members of the British armed forces had previously lived for decades. This was only possible thanks to a stressful additional commitment of the employees. The basis for this was a unique cooperation with BIMA, the Federal Agency for Real Estate Development, which owned an entire housing estate. A large number of 3-person student flat-shares were able to stay there temporarily. Unfortunately, this cooperation could not be extended due to the revenue interests of the federal government.
Further development required through new forms of communication
In other service areas, too, the further development of the Student Union at the time was only possible under difficult conditions with very frequently changing strategic guidelines. Beginning in 2013, there were repeatedly numerous staff vacancies that went beyond the usual level and demanded a great deal of resilience from colleagues. For several years, several important management positions – such as two of three department heads and the position of managing director – were not continuously filled. At the same time, students were calling for a new, more dialogic communication of the Student Union. One topic among others was the use of language in the context of gender-equality and a new Higher Education Future Act NRW. As a result, the generic masculine “Studentenwerk Münster” was renamed to the gender neutral “Studierendenwerk Münster” in 2015.
In 2017, the student representatives of the higher education institutions in the context of ecology and sustainability demanded clearer communication with the Student Union and more information on its business policy. The sustainability departments of the WWU and University of Applied Sciences-AStA were therefore involved for the first time in the development and implementation of the customer satisfaction measurements that had already been carried out for many years. Contrary to the assessment of the departments, it was transparently determined that not all, but only 30% of all representative students surveyed wanted “more vegan and vegetarian options”. The overall offer was rated as good (school grade 2.2) and the desire for “more choice and more variety” predominated.
In order to inform students more effectively in the future about food production and purchasing, transport, logistics as well as generation and handling of energy and the sustainable business policy, despite the constantly recurring fluctuation at the AStA, a new form was sought for an ongoing dialogue. A sustainability report was published in 2019. An overview of the activities of some areas (catering, building management, personnel), all developments of the entire Student Union are to be recorded and published, because the balance of the defined and already achieved sustainability goals has been considerable for decades.
The years from 2017 onwards were again determined by high demands on sustainable housing development. In spring 2019, the pollutant clean-up and modernisation of 16.3 million euros of the Heekweg residency was completed. The Heekweg student residence, which was built in 1974, now offers 331 modern places for students. Through redensification, a modern student residence in passive house standard with 124 additional places, was built on Busso-Peus-Strasse for 9.7 million euros. Standard. For another 34 million euros, the more than 40-year-old Gescherweg student residence was renovated and modernised. It now offers another 668 students a modern living space.