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History

Bard College Berlin
Students during a Macroeconomics seminar

Bard College Berlin

Bard 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 a second one-year program, the Project Year. The foundation was instrumental in ensuring the sustainability and expansion of the college’s small-group teaching structure and high faculty-student ratio. In subsequent years, the institution’s organizational structure, its physical campus, and the first stage of the accreditation process took shape, as recruitment and strategic partnerships also developed.

Beginning in 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 its 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—and the demands of specialist focus in a specific subject area that is characteristic of European public universities. The Berlin Senate Department of Education, Science, and Research recognized the institution as a private German university in February 2011. 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 the national level in Germany by the Wissenschaftsrat (German Council of Science and Humanities). 

In November 2011 the institution merged with Bard College, New York, an early supporter and the first U.S. 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, St. Petersburg State University, Russia; Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem; 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.
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