The History of the Guest Houses and International Meeting Centres

The image of Germany that foreign guest researchers and their families form during extended research stays in Germany is not only shaped by the success of their research work at German universities and research institutes but also by impressions and experiences gained in everyday life. Here the living situation plays a substantial role. In the early 1960s the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation already recognized the necessity to improve the accommodation facilities for and integration of foreign guest researchers and took appropriate measures.

The establishment of guest houses in the western federal states of Germany

From 1963 to 1973 the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation established 34 guest houses at 28 universities from funds amounting to DM 55 million made available by the Volkswagen Foundation. The new offer of guest apartments was gladly welcomed by foreign guest researchers. However, it turned out soon that with the rising number of foreign guest researchers in Germany the requirement of guest apartments continued to increase. Apart from this, common rooms for the professional and personal exchange of ideas of the foreign guest researchers among each other and with their German colleagues were missing in the guest houses established up to then.

The establishment of international meeting centres in the western federal states of Germany

In 1974, the Volkswagen Foundation granted another DM 65 million to the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. From these funds and from donations and contributions by third parties the Humboldt Foundation established 28 international meeting centres for scientists and scholars (IBZ) at 27 universities. Apart from the new buildings, which were established, some of the former guest houses were changed into international meeting centres. Unlike the guest houses the IBZ have spacious meeting rooms (seminar-, conference-, reading-rooms etc.) in addition to the guest apartments, which the occupants may use for professional and personal discussions among each other and with their German colleagues as well as for scientific conferences and cultural events. Additionally, many of these houses have common television rooms, hobby rooms and playrooms for children, which are intended to facilitate everyday life of the guest researchers and their families.

The establishment of international meeting centres in the eastern federal states of Germany

After the fall of the Berlin wall the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation accepted the new challenge to create appropriate accommodation for foreign guest researchers in the eastern federal states of Germany. The Federation and the Federal States made available approximately DM 70 million from the University Renewal Programme ("Hochschulerneuerungsprogramm" HEP) for this new task. Further DM 12 million were contributed by third parties. From 1997 to 2000, with these funds 13 further IBZ were established at 12 East German university locations.

Usually, the guest houses and IBZ are centrally located so that not only the research institutes but also schools, kindergartens and shopping facilities can be reached easily. In many guest houses a direct contact person is in charge of the questions, problems and worries of the foreign guests. The individual assistance facilitates not only the acclimatisation to the new environment but also to German everyday life.