Bard College BerlinBard College Berlin was founded in 1999 as the European College of Liberal Arts (ECLA) by a group of German intellectuals and entrepreneurs, with the aim of providing a high-quality, small-group seminar, and teaching-oriented international program of advanced study for undergraduates of particular promise wishing to study in English. The college’s teaching offerings began with an International Summer University (ISU): an intensive, six-week residential study program devoted to the study of key problems and questions in European and world philosophy, literature, and culture. A one-year program (now known as the Academy Year) was developed on the basis of this ethos in 2002, incorporating a core course encompassing the major works of Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and elective courses in philosophy, literature, and art history.
The following year, with the generous support of the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation, the college moved to its current campus in Pankow-Niederschönhausen and introduced the second one-year program, the Project Year, offered until today. The foundation was instrumental in ensuring the sustainability and expansion of the college’s small-group teaching structure and faculty student ratio. In the following years, the institution’s organizational structure, physical campus, and the first stage of the accreditation process took shape, as recruitment and strategic partnerships also developed.
From 2007, the faculty worked jointly on a new ‘value questions’ approach to liberal education, leading to the introduction of the college’s first BA program. The BA in Value Studies was formally launched in 2009, as the college held the 10th ISU.
A key purpose of the program’s development was the intention to combine the best elements of American liberal arts education, with its emphasis on choice, exploration, critical reflection, and engagement, with the demands of specialist focus in a specific subject area characteristic of European public universities. The institution received state recognition in February 2011 by the Berlin Senate Department of Education, Science and Research as a private German university. The first German BA degrees were awarded to graduating students in 2012. The BA in Humanities, the Arts, and Social Thought became the college’s first accredited degree program in September 2013, followed by the BA in Economics, Politics, and Social Thought in September 2015. As of January 20, 2017 Bard College Berlin is institutionally accredited at national level in Germany by the Wissenschaftsrat.
In November 2011 the institution merged with Bard College, New York, an early supporter and the first US college (in 2002) to grant academic credits for work done here. With a long-standing commitment to liberal arts education, Bard College is the center of a global educational network that includes Smolny College/Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences at St. Petersburg State University, Russia; Al-Quds University on the West Bank, and the American University of Central Asia, in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Bard College Berlin has since become an important center for the Bard network, attracting students and faculty from around the world who are interested in liberal arts education, the arts, and the meaning of global citizenship.