Event highlight

20 years of public policy research and teaching made in Berlin

The 2023-2024 academic year opens with a discussion on the past, present and future of the Hertie School.

On 6 September, the Hertie School hosted the panel discussion “20 years Hertie School: The Past, Present and Future of Public Policy Education” to open the 2023-2024 academic year and kick off its 20th anniversary celebrations. The panel included President Cornelia Woll, founding Dean Michael Zürn, former President and Professor of Sociology Helmut K. Anheier and New America CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter. The discussion was moderated by journalist Jan-Martin Wierda.

President Woll began the event by praising the university’s teaching and outreach achievements of the last 20 years: “We had the opportunity to welcome current, past, and future presidents, prime ministers, and parliamentarians; Nobel Peace Prize holders; groundbreaking thinkers, and of course the most innovative practitioners. Our alumni have become entrepreneurs, state ministers, university presidents and members of parliament. I’m sure I’m speaking for all of us here today when I say that I am so proud of what we have been able to achieve.”


Hertie School founded to solve problems and look beyond Germany

Looking back at the early 2000s in Germany, founding Dean Zürn noted that there were no “first-class institutions who did problem-oriented work or high-quality research”. The Hertie School was founded to fill this gap.

In Zürn and Woll’s view, research in public policy had to look beyond Germany. “We didn’t want Germany to be continuously inward-looking and international discussions to go on without us,” Woll recalls of the time. “We wanted to make sure that Germany and Berlin’s voice is heard.” She argued that Berlin lacked a “docking point” for international networking and said that – in the words of late Hertie School President Henrik Enderlein – “Berlin needs a public policy school”.

Networking and PhD accreditation

All the speakers stressed the importance of networking in establishing the Hertie School’s reputation. Anheier argued that earning PhD accreditation in 2012 was “absolutely vital” in this. “It gave us academic respectability; it changed the nature of the place,” he said. “With a PhD programme, we wouldn’t only be a teaching institution, but a research institution.” Slaughter agreed, arguing that having a PhD programme “makes it easier to attract top faculty” and that the accreditation “deepened the reputation of the school”.

Making the Hertie School affordable

The speakers agreed that a main goal and challenge of the Hertie School is to offer affordable education to all. President Woll stressed that the university strives to lower tuition fees and reach out to all potential students. She also noted the scholarships the university offers, in particular the five full “Data for Good Scholarships” for the Master of Data Science for Public Policy funded by the Dieter Schwarz Foundation. In the future, Woll said that the university wants to reach out more to specific regions, especially Africa, but stressed that the school needs the financial backing to be able to do that.

Hopes for the next 20 years

When asked what wishes they have for the Hertie School in the next 20 years, Anheier said that he wants to see the school remain open and entrepreneurial and hoped that the university would not merge with another institution. Zürn hoped that the Hertie School would continue to provide a forum for different disciplines and different perspectives and not become an “elitist institution”. Slaughter hoped to see a massive endowment for the Hertie School so that it can chart its future course over the next 20 years “without having to think about taking students and expanding for financial reasons”. For President Woll, diversity and inclusion stood in the foreground: “I would like to see that we’re training the best and brightest talents from wherever they come”.

Find out more about our 20th anniversary celebrations at https://www.20years.hertie-school.org/.