Mechanical engineering at the Gesamthochschule Kassel: "Today careers are forged where cannons were once cast"

What lucky coincidence led to the University of Kassel having its main campus in the city centre today? Which European educational reform did the Comprehensive University of Kassel anticipate when it introduced its engineering diploma degree programmes? To what extent is mechanical engineering part of the campus DNA and thus inseparable from the University of Kassel? We answer these questions in the third part of our short series on the history of mechanical engineering in Kassel.

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In 1971, the Gesamthochschule Kassel (GhK) was founded as Germany's first reform university. In this process, already existing educational institutions, including the two Engineering Schools for Civil and Mechanical Engineering, were incorporated. Since no central campus existed yet, the premises of existing institutions were initially used. Parallel to this, the Aufbau- und Verfügungszentrum (AVZ) was built in Oberzwehren in 1971, where the three fields industrial and organisational psychology, project management and quality and process management are still located today. The main location of the new university was going to be built on an adjacent former military training area. However, this plan was scrapped after the Henschel company gave up its factory premises at Holländischer Platz in 1972. This area made it possible to build a central campus. Over the next few years, many of the former factory buildings were demolished and replaced by new buildings, but their brick facades are reminiscent of the industrial architecture of the old Henschel factory. The mechanical engineering faculty buildings in particular still characterise the face of the campus today: the Gießhaus as a building monument of the industrial era, the Sophie-Henschel-Haus, which combines the old façade with a new interior structure, and the futuristic Technik III/2 building, where the roof is now a location for breeding and keeping bees.

However, the GhK not only broke new ground architecturally, but also in the way it structured its academic degrees. Thus, from 1975 onwards, an innovative, two-phase diploma degree programme was introduced for the engineering sciences, which had not previously been offered at technical colleges and universities. This "Kassel model" was roughly based on the Anglo-Saxon Bachelor's and Master's system and provided for the two consecutive, professionally qualifying degrees Diplom I and Diplom II. When all German universities finally switched to the Bachelor's/Master's system in the course of the Bologna reform, the University of Kassel could already look back on many decades of a very similar study structure.

Especially the location of the University of Kassel campus on the former Henschel site (Holländischer Platz campus) and the innovative strength of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering today are seen as a stroke of luck of great symbolic significance. Heinz Schmidt, for example, states:

The name Henschel, known worldwide with its products, has meanwhile become extinct as a company symbol. The company premises at Holländischer Platz were abandoned in 1972. It is comforting to know that the inventive spirit and engineering skills of the outstanding technician Carl Anton Henschel and his descendants are being carried on by the University of Kassel since it transformed the former Henschelei in the centre of the city into its largest campus. So today careers are forged where cannons were once cast. And the best tradition of the old Henschelei lives on in the research and teaching of the technical science faculties at the University of Kassel. (Schmidt 2012, p. 46)

German text Daniel Koch



Ickler, Gerhard (2012): Ein Industriegebiet wird zum Hochschulcampus. Zur Baugeschichte der jungen Kasseler Universität. In: Annette Ulbricht (Hg.): Henschel, Gottschalk & Co. Die industrielle Vorgeschichte des Campus Holländischer Platz der Universität Kassel. Kassel: Kassel Univ. Press, S. 76–86.

Kleinkauf, Werner (1996): Gestalten oder nachvollziehen? Aspekte zur Entwicklung der Ingenieurwissenschaften an der GhK. In: Annette Ulbricht-Hopf (Hg.): ProfilBildung. Texte zu 25 Jahren Universität Gesamthochschule Kassel. 1. Aufl. Zürich: vdf Hochsch.-Verl. an der ETH (Kasseler Semesterbücher Reihe Studia cassellana), S. 179–190.

Schmidt, Heinz (2012): Ein Unternehmen von "Weltgeltung". Chronik der Firma Henschel und ihres Stammsitzes am Holländischen Platz. In: Annette Ulbricht (Hg.): Henschel, Gottschalk & Co. Die industrielle Vorgeschichte des Campus Holländischer Platz der Universität Kassel. Kassel: Kassel Univ. Press, S. 13–49.