Studentenwerk Leipzig celebrates 100 years
We are turning 100!
This year we are celebrating an important milestone: 100 years!
It all began in 1921 when a dedicated group of students founded the Leipzig Students’ Economic Aid Association (Wirtschaftsselbsthilfeverein Leipziger Studenten e.V.), which provided essential support to students, particularly in their day-to-day lives. Eventually this would become the Studentenwerk Leipzig that we know and love today.
We are proud to have been supporting students for 100 years.
In this special centenary year we look back at our diverse history, recount exciting stories, explore interesting details and hear tales from the past. We also focus on the present work and future goals of Studentenwerk Leipzig.
Students in Leipzig can expect a few surprises throughout the year, depending of course on the situation at the time. So stay tuned and keep your eyes open!
Services provided by Studentenwerk Leipzig – in the early years and today
Two core services that Studentenwerk Leipzig still offers “to make studying a success” were the main pillars already when it was founded in 1921. Providing affordable housing and food were important tasks from the very beginning. Others, such as hairdressing salons, the “Wanderamt”, and the clothing or bed linen rental offices, have long since been forgotten. But even after all the changes, one thing remains constant: the permanent adaptation to the students’ needs. And student participation and the principle of solidarity are principles that characterize Studentenwerk Leipzig today as they did 100 years ago.
The origin: Student self-help
In the years following the end of the First World War, students were particularly short of food and housing. Financing their studies was also a major challenge. After the first self-organized welfare services, the association “Wirtschaftsselbsthilfe der Leipziger Studenten e.V.” was founded in Leipzig on September 7, 1921 by students in the presence of their lecturers. The aim was to bundle the support services that had been created till then into one single system. What made the association special was that it was initiated by students for students. That association is the forerunner of today's Studentenwerk Leipzig.
Although today's Studentenwerk Leipzig is no longer run by students but is a public law institution that employs about 300 people and has the legal mandate to provide services, its most important task still is to provide students with a social infrastructure so that they can study without having to worry about their social background and income and to ensure equal opportunities. In addition to state funding, all students still make a significant financial contribution by paying their semester fees. Those students who are greatly reliant on the support services benefit from them in particular.
Principle of solidarity
Even 100 years ago, the services of the economic self-help association (“Wirtschaftsselbsthilfeverein”) were financed according to the principle of solidarity, meaning that everyone paid a contribution, so that especially those could benefit who urgently needed support.
Today, Studentenwerk Leipzig still works according to the solidarity principle. That means, all students in our area of responsibility who are required to pay fees pay their (semester) contribution to finance the social infrastructure at their place of study and are thus given the opportunity to make use of all our services. The solidarity of the entire student body with members of the community in need of social support is in the foreground – not the fairness of benefits in individual cases.
Equal student co-determination
The “Wirtschaftsselbsthilfeverein” was founded by seven students in September 1921; the first chairman of the association was the student Rudolf Thieme.
The various departments of the “Wirtschaftsselbsthilfeverein” were initially headed mainly by students. Student staffing of the offices was a pioneering model in Leipzig that was not common practice everywhere in the economic self-help associations of other university cities.
The work of Studentenwerk Leipzig is still characterized by students being equally represented in bodies and committees. Students have significant co-determination opportunities and thus advocate for the needs of the student body: Five of the ten voting members of the Administrative Board are currently students. The chairmanship of the Administrative Board is also currently held by a student. In the committees set up by the Administrative Board (Cultural Committee, Social Committee, Semester Ticket Committee), students from the various universities that Studentenwerk takes care of are represented at least equally.
One hot meal a day
The food situation in the years after World War I was poor. The focus of all efforts in the early years was to offer students at least one hot, inexpensive meal every day. The heart of the “Wirtschaftsselbsthilfeverein” was the “Mensa academica” near the university. The cafeteria prices were subsidized, and financial support did not only come from student fees but also from the university, private donations and the state. Donation-financed “free tables” provided free meals for students who were particularly in need.
Providing students with inexpensive and healthy food close to the university is still one of Studentenwerk’s core tasks. Over the years, the number of dining halls and cafeterias has grown, and various locations at the different university campuses have been added. The menu was also adapted to the needs of students today, allowing for a healthy diet and taking allergies and intolerances into account. Where once the main problem was to relieve deprivation and hunger, today’s student restaurants are more than simple places to satisfy needs; they are lounges, meeting places and thus places of exchange for all students.
A roof over one’s head
Providing students in Leipzig with affordable housing has been a core task of Studentenwerk Leipzig from the very beginning. The student housing office, founded in 1920, initially arranged for rooms in private apartments, for example of war widows. The provision of one wing in the boarding house of the Connewitz teachers' college was the first step towards a student dormitory. Dormitories, study rooms, dressing rooms, and breakfast met the basic needs of inexpensive accommodation. Over the years, other dormitories were added. Residential blocks with centrally heated shared rooms provided inexpensive modern standards for a larger number of students.
Today, student housing is one of the main pillars of Studentenwerk Leipzig. About 5,200 students can live in a modern, inexpensive way in 15 halls of residence close to their university. Whether shared or single apartments, comfortable kitchens, private showers and bathrooms – the range has been adapted and expanded according to the needs of students today. Common rooms, fitness rooms and rehearsal rooms facilitate social exchange and coexistence in the student dormitories.
It is hard to study without money
Studying in the 1920s was often only possible if paid for by the parents in advance. In addition, the cost of living increased rapidly. Students often had to go into debt to be able to study at all. Working while studying or during semester breaks was quite common. A loan fund supported students who were in need for the short-term.
For many students, the “donated” meals at free tables or family tables were similar to financial support: Financed by municipalities or wealthy citizens, students were given a lunch or dinner meal at the refectory. Some families, if they could afford it, offered students a meal in their own kitchen, often in return for a lesson to their own children.
50 years ago – in 1971 – student financing was introduced in the former West German states in accordance with the BAföG. Since its reestablishment in 1991, Studentenwerk Leipzig has been responsible for providing BAföG to Leipzig students. Our case workers and the BAföG service take care of all questions concerning BAföG – from assistance with applications to the legal framework and repayment modalities to the awarding of BAföG. In February 2021, about 6,800 Leipzig students received student financing according to BAföG. Studentenwerk's social counseling service offers advice and assistance with financial problems. Students who find themselves in an emergency situation through no fault of their own can still be supported by means of interest-free loans.
Plays for potatoes
Necessity is the mother of invention: When in the beginning of the 1920s food for the cafeteria was scarce, the cafeteria helpers, who were all volunteer students, went out into the countryside to collect food donations from farmers. In return for the donated potatoes, flour and other foodstuff, the students thanked the farmers with theater performances and singing plays – an early form of “cultural sponsorship” in order to be able to satisfy the basic need for food in return for performed art. The “Theatervermittlungsamt” (later “Vergünstigungsamt”), which was part of the economic self-help, also organized discount on tickets for various cultural venues in Leipzig for students in the 1920s.
In the GDR, universities also offered quite a bit of culture; in Leipzig, there were choirs, orchestras, cabaret, theater, carnival committees, and the Ensemble Solidarität comprising many international groups. There were student clubs at almost all universities, most of which were housed in student halls of residence. Today, Studentenwerk Leipzig still provides the premises for five student clubs in student halls of residence where they serve as meeting places for student life.
Cultural funding provided by Studentenwerk Leipzig nowadays is different – financial means are granted to students to try out their own cultural projects in a variety of ways and be creative alongside their studies.
In line with the deficiencies and illnesses of the 1920s, the main focus at the time the Studentenwerk's was founded was on combating and preventing tuberculosis. Rehab treatments were prescribed, there were separate doctors for students, separate lunch tables for malnourished students, canteen meals for students suffering from stomach and intestinal diseases, reclining and resting rooms for exhausted students so that they could recover in one-hour reclining treatments.
Medical care for students today is the responsibility of the state health system. When it comes to promoting the health of students, Studentenwerk Leipzig focuses on (psycho)social counseling services in addition to balanced nutrition at student restaurants and cafeterias according to the demands of the times. Students have the opportunity of social counseling to talk anonymously about personal, family or financial problems. If they suffer from mental stress, the Psychosocial Counseling Center provides help. In individual and group discussions, but also in special courses and workshops, they search for solutions together with the students for their study difficulties, personal conflicts or mental stress.
Palm court musicians, waiters, cigarette sellers
Due to the financial hardships after the World War I, many students in the founding years of Studentenwerk had to depend on working alongside their studies or during semester breaks. The placement of student jobs was handled by the employment office, which was affiliated with the “Wirtschaftsselbsthilfeverein”. Typical jobs were waiting tables at cafés, selling cigarettes, playing palm court music, and attending lifts, but office and bank jobs were also popular. A Leipzig specialty was the “Academic Translating and Interpreting Agency” (AKÜDO), which enabled future academics to earn money by applying the language skills they had acquired during their studies. Offering more than 30 languages, the agency was a Leipzig institution that was also adopted by other universities, like Dresden or Berlin.
The reestablished Studentenwerk Leipzig has again had a student job office since 1991. Today, 60 percent of Saxon students work in addition to their studies in order to secure their livelihood. Students are placed in a great variety of jobs, for instance as movers, waiters, temporary helps, but often also in companies that are connected to their studies. The job agency also provides advice on organizational questions regarding student jobs.
Studying with children
From the 1920s to the postwar period, the task of supporting students with children did not arise. Until the 1960s, it was still common in the GDR for children of working women or students to be cared for in week nurseries. With the general promotion of births in the GDR (starting in 1972, financial support began with a 1000 Mark birth bonus per child), more attention was paid to special assistance for female students with children. For the first time in 1974, the dean of the University of Leipzig ordered that female students should receive every kind of support and encouragement for and during their studies and be preferred in the allocation of rooms in student halls of residence; student couples with children were also to be accommodated in student halls of residence. Places were also held available for students' children in municipal nurseries and kindergartens.
After the reunification, the birth rate initially slumped, but there were still students with children and a need for accommodation that suited students' everyday lives. In 1995, Studentenwerk Leipzig opened the "Kinderladen" on the Augustusplatz campus, which offered student parents the opportunity to attend lectures while their children were cared for by the hour. Since 1996, "Villa Unifratz" combines living and childcare under one roof: the daycare center still looks after students' children, while the rest of the house provides living spaces for student families.
In addition, Studentenwerk now provides two other daycare centers close to the university to care for students' children, which are run by its partner Fröbel gGmbH. Since 2019, a special meeting place for student parents has been the Student Family Center, which, being a center for people to meet, also facilitates workshops and relaxation courses as well as childcare on one's own initiative. Specialized social counseling on financial support and other assistance services complement the services offered by Studentenwerk. Children of students up to the age of 12 get the "Kinderteller" (children's dish), a free meal every day at the student restaurants.
Support of impaired students
In the early years after World War I, there was a dormitory for war-disabled students in Dresdner Straße; otherwise, support for impaired people was a private matter during that time. In the GDR, the system of care for the disabled focused on welfare and was less concerned with supporting the intellectually gifted. Thus, there did not exist any explicit support for studying with impairment. In the former West German states, they started to examine the issue more intensively as a social responsibility in the 1980s. Since 1982, the Deutsche Studentenwerk (DSW) has been operating a central counseling center for university applicants and students with impairments.
By reestablishing Studentenwerk Leipzig, the issue automatically became part of our work in 1991. The social services department was established in 1995. In 1995, a psychological counseling service was set up by a trained psychologist on behalf of Studentenwerk Leipzig. Two years before, Studentenwerk Leipzig created the possibility for students to consult a psychologist working at the university. Since 2012, psychosocial counseling for students of Studentenwerk Leipzig has been bundled in cooperation with Leipzig University in a counseling center that focuses on student counseling. In 1996, the social counseling service was introduced, which has since offered special counseling services for international students, students with impairments, and students with children. Then as now, our social services focus on the students’ needs and are adapted as necessary. For students with impairments, support means not only counseling, but also assistance in everyday life and the continuous improvement of barrier-free access to the services offered by Studentenwerk Leipzig.
Students from all over the world in Leipzig
As early as the 1920s, foreign students came to Germany to study. Since studies were generally to be paid for, one can assume that these students tended to be wealthy. The increasing general awareness that students from abroad were important for the international reputation of the German university and the German Reich as a whole led to the establishment of an independent "Academic International Office" at Leipzig University, starting in 1927, to advise and support foreign students. The Leipzig Translation and Interpreting Agency for Students (AKÜDO) was an important address during this period for learning German and coming into contact with German and international students.
In the GDR, the allocation of university places to foreigners was predominantly decided on the basis of foreign policy directives from the Central Committee of the SED.
Foreigners studying in the GDR served primarily prestige purposes. Students from mainly socialist countries such as Vietnam, Korea, Mozambique, or Cuba were financed and cared for all-around from the state budget in order to convey the image of a successful state to the outside world. The number of foreign students remained relatively low at less than 1,000 until the early 1970s. Only by admitting hundreds of Vietnamese students and the recognition of the GDR under international law by numerous developing countries did the number rise sharply – to a constant level of over 12,000 in the 1980s. Special emphasis was placed on integrating foreign students into the normal study process. At the student halls of residence, the principle of mixed occupancy applied. That was intended to ensure that the international students lived in a German-speaking environment and were supported by their German fellow students. At the end of the 1970s, international students were discovered as a source of foreign exchange. Thus, students from wealthy families came to the GDR and also to Leipzig for their education. Special rules applied to them, so to speak, and they also enjoyed certain privileges such as single rooms and the accommodation of spouses at student halls of residence or “full board” based on recipes from their home cuisine.
Nowadays, the share of international students at Leipzig's universities is 12 percent (in the winter semester 2019/20). The share of international students living at student halls of residence is almost 37 percent. Of the more than 80 nationalities represented in the halls of residence, the majority of students come from China (13 percent), Syria (7percent), and Russia (6 percent). Studentenwerk Leipzig offers special counseling services as well as a variety of informational and recreational events that make it easier to arrive and live in Leipzig, so that international students can fully concentrate on their studies. The target group is addressed in terms of holistic support in the important areas of housing, student restaurants, financing, and counseling. The cross-sectional coordination of international affairs was established in the social services department in order to organize not only cross-departmental work but also professional networking with the universities and other institutions in Leipzig.
From darning stockings to the semester ticket
Studentenwerk Leipzig supports students’ mobility in Leipzig with special offers. On behalf of the student body, it acts as the contractual partner of the transport companies and ensures the provision of the semester ticket that was first introduced 25 years ago in 1996 and of which various models existed. Today's semester ticket allows students from all Leipzig universities and colleges to use all means of transportation in Leipzig and the entire area of the Central German Public Transit Network (MDV). The mobility fund managed by Studentenwerk Leipzig also supports three bicycle self-help repair shops where students can repair their bicycles free of charge under expert guidance.
Where Studentenwerk today makes it possible to mend a broken tire, there was also a mending shop in the early years of Studentenwerk, which belonged to the economic self-help association. Instead of tires, however, students’ stockings and underwear were expertly mended and repaired free of charge. Mobility was also promoted as early as in the 1920s: weekly tickets for the Leipzig streetcar were available at a reduced price on request from the benefits office of the economic self-help association.
Many funding sources of Studentenwerk
Originally, claiming support services of the economic self-help association was linked to the payment of an association fee. Later, students paid a semester fee to the university, a small portion of which was intended for financing the economic self-help. In addition, many students contributed their labor (e.g., helping out in the cafeteria). Leipzig University provided the premises. Nevertheless, Studentenwerk also received financial support from the Saxon Ministry of Education, and even the city of Leipzig made a financial contribution. Furthermore, especially in the early years, there were generous donations in kind and money from the general public and from all over the world (e.g., from companies and former students or from local authorities to support students from their community in Leipzig).
Today, Studentenwerk Leipzig finances its operations mainly from four sources:
- sales from the student halls of residents, student restaurants and cafeterias,
- semester contributions paid by the students,
- reimbursement of costs by the Free State of Saxony for the Office for Educational Support, and
- allocations from the Free State of Saxony for the ongoing operation of the catering facilities and social services.
In addition, there are the buildings that the Free State of Saxony leaves to Studentenwerk Leipzig for the provision of social infrastructure as well as the state investment grants to maintain and modernize that infrastructure. After the reestablishment of the Studentenwerk Leipzig 30 years ago, for example, the student halls of residence were restructured with the help of state subsidy programs in the 1990s, and student restaurants and cafeterias were renovated step by step in the 2000s. And even now, annual investment grants from the Free State of Saxony are flowing into the modernization of student restaurants, cafeterias and, since 2019, student halls of residence. 25 years after the core renovation of the halls of residence, there is again an increased need for modernization of the building facilities. The state investment grants for the upcoming modernization requirements are an essential prerequisite for maintaining affordable rents in the student halls of residence.
Students organized the operation of refectory
In the 1920s, the "Mensa academica" was the heart of the economic self-help association. Particularly noteworthy is the great commitment of students, who mainly ensured that the refectory ran smoothly. In the beginning there were 80, later about 200 students who kept the refectory running as so-called “cafeteria helpers” by serving, clearing the tables, organizing the service or even food. With their honorary commitment and voluntary labor, the students thus contributed significantly to the success story of the economic self-help association above and beyond their semester contribution. Today, Studentenwerk Leipzig, as a public-law institution, is a business with a social mission that operates according to commercial rules. About 300 permanent employees are responsible for the successful operation of the organization, although they are still supported to a small extent by temporary student workers, who, for example work at the office or on the canteen conveyor in the restaurants. Students still volunteer in the various bodies of Studentenwerk Leipzig, such as the Administrative Board and the committees.
Collaboration with universities and colleges
The origins of today's Studentenwerk Leipzig lie at Leipzig University, supported by members of the university, such as students and professors. In the late 1910s and early 1920s, the transitions in welfare work were very smooth. It was not until the economic self-help association was founded in September 1921 that the forerunner of today's Studentenwerk was created as an independent institution. Nevertheless, the two institutions continued to be closely linked in their welfare work. The university provided various premises for the association's social support services, such as the "Mensa academica" in Ritterstraße. The center of the economic self-help association with all its sub-departments was also located in the university's building complex at Ritterstraße 14. For several years, the university vigorously promoted the construction of a new student hall of residence in Connewitz, which opened in 1931 and the operation of which was given to the hands of the economic self-help association.
From the summer semester of 1926, the Leipzig Graduate School of Management (HHL) joined them; University and the Graduate School of Management then ran the following offices jointly: the refectory, the housing office, the employment agency and the translating and interpreting agency. The HHL institutions serving these purposes were dissolved. The HHL had agreed with the economic self-help association that individual welfare services would be available to its students in the same way as to university students. The HHL joined the economic self-help association. The association now acted as the economic body of both student bodies. One HHL representative sat on each of the board of directors and the administrative committee. The management students were able to volunteer in the self-help institutions. The HHL contributed financially in proportion to the use of the association's services by its students, which also paid membership fees to economic self-help association.
After the end of the World War II, the rectorate files state on Studentenwerk: "By order of the military commander of Leipzig dated October 16, 1945, Studentenwerk Leipzig was transferred to the fiduciary care of the university."
On May 21, 1948, the Leipzig district office of Social Student Support – "formerly the Studentenwerk" – was constituted. This formally sealed the end of the Studentenwerk. From that time on, all social matters were handled by the respective universities. Student health insurance and health services were transferred to the insurance institution of Saxony. Each university had to take care of the social support of its students itself.
It was not until after the fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago – on July 1, 1991 – that Studentenwerk Leipzig was reestablished as a cross-university institution. On the effective date of July 1, all corresponding social and economic facilities of the universities (7 student restaurants, 28 cafeterias, 56 student halls of residence and apartments) and about 500 employees were separated from the universities and transferred to the reestablished Studentenwerk. Studentenwerk Leipzig resumed its independent economic activities as an institution under public law under the legal supervision and, at the BAföG office, also under the technical supervision of the Free State of Saxony. The number of students to take care of was 18,859.
The colleges that existed at that time were:
Today, Studentenwerk Leipzig has about 300 employees and is responsible for the approximately 39,000 students at eight Leipzig universities:
The current range of services offered by Studentenwerk Leipzig ensures the fulfillment of the social care and support mandate in accordance with the Act on the Freedom of Institutions of Higher Education in the Free State of Saxony for the 39,000 students in Leipzig – so that studying in Leipzig becomes a success:
Studentenwerk Leipzig works in partnership and as equals with Leipzig's universities and student representatives. Representatives of these universities are delegated as members to the Administrative Board and the committees of the Studentenwerk Leipzig in order to ensure a supply that is tailored to the actual requirements.
A trip through history
From the early 1920s to the end of the Second World War
After the First World War
The post-war period is tough for students. Two-thirds suffer financial hardship and many have to deal with food shortages, insufficient living space and failing health.
Students and faculty members across Germany begin to form private organisations aimed at helping students.
In its constitution, the General Student Committee (AStA) at Leipzig University declares the welfare of students to be its top priority. By the early 1920s, some 5,000 students are enrolled at Leipzig University.
The German Students’ Economic Aid Association (Wirtschaftshilfe der Deutschen Studentenschaft e.V.) is founded on 19 February in Tübingen. Its headquarters are in Dresden.
In Leipzig, the first meeting of the Leipzig Students’ Economic Aid Association takes place on 7 September. This will later become Studentenwerk Leipzig. The association aims to better coordinate and further extend existing social services and, ultimately, ease student hardship. Board membership is representational and a student is elected first President of the board.
The university’s student social services office and the Leipzig Students’ Economic Aid Association now form the central financial organisation for students. A wide range of services are provided including affordable meals in the Mensa Academica, accommodation, financial support, and help for sick students.
Inflation causes the number of students facing hardship to increase fivefold.
Twenty-five different departments offer support services including a loan office, an employment agency, the Academic Interpreting and Translation Office (Aküdo), various rental services, services for sick students and housing services that allocate private rooms and rooms in halls of residence.
Donations to the Mensa dwindle and student volunteers turn to the surrounding areas to find food. They repay generous farmers with theatre performances and lessons in agriculture.
At first, the Leipzig Students’ Economic Aid Association is only for students enrolled at the university. Then the School of Management joins and the association takes on financial duties for both student bodies.
The German Students’ Economic Aid Association is renamed Deutsches Studentenwerk. As a result, the Leipzig Students’ Economic Aid Association becomes Studentenwerk Leipzig.
On 10 May the Erich-Bethe-Haus is opened. It is the first purpose-built hall of residence and can accommodate 50 students. It also features common rooms, work spaces and catering areas. It took years to organise and finance.
On 15 November, Studentenwerk Leipzig holds a ceremony in the university auditorium to celebrate its tenth anniversary.
Members of the National Socialist German Student Union (NSDStB) are relentless in their attempts to disrupt the work of Studentenwerk Leipzig. This includes accusing it of financial irregularities. The situation worsens when NSDStB wins the majority in the AStA elections.
On 1 May, the AStA is dissolved at the university. Studentenwerk Leipzig is disbanded. All social services are placed under the direct control of the “Führer” of the Leipzig student body.
A law passed on 6 July consolidates all institutions under the Reichsstudentenwerk. The regional Studentenwerke are subject to Gleichschaltung and deprived of their autonomy. Student aid and support is now based on political and racial ideology. Studentenwerk Leipzig is deleted from the register of associations.
Second World War
Many students are forced to join efforts to support the war or are called for military service. Countless university buildings are destroyed in the air raids on Leipzig. Teaching comes to a stop.
The war ends and plans are immediately made to relaunch Studentenwerk Leipzig. An advisory board with equal representation is established.
On 18 January, the Soviet Military Administration allows the university to resume teaching.
A Mensa and Procurement office is established. There are three Mensas: Grassistraße, Amtsgericht and Tierklinik, as well as various smaller kitchens. Every day 1,850 meals are cooked.
On 17 December, a law is passed to establish an institution under public law that provides social support to students in Saxony. The institution is responsible for the Mensas, halls of residence, the library, various other social facilities and awarding scholarships. Its two key duties are providing food and organising accommodation.
On 21 May, the Leipzig social support office is established and Studentenwerk Leipzig is formally dissolved. In future, the individual higher education institutions are each responsible for providing social support to their students.
Leipzig University has been renamed the Karl Marx University. It has converted nine buildings into student halls of residence that can accommodate around 1,080 students. In 1956, a new hall of residence is built in Nürnberger Straße to house medical students; today it belongs to Studentenwerk Leipzig.
A new hall of residence called Jenny Marx is opened in the centre of Leipzig (Studentenwerk Leipzig will move its central office here at the end of 1995). All subsequently built halls of residence are constructed as prefabricated concrete Plattenbau buildings.
In January, construction begins on the student halls of residence in Straße des 18. Oktober. Up to 2,800 residents can be accommodated in the Plattenbau complex. Because all students from outside the area are entitled to a place in a hall of residence, these halls are often overcrowded. Most of the halls of residence in older buildings are vacated.
In May, the Politburo of the Central Committee of the SED, the ruling party of the GDR, confirms plans for Leipzig’s Karl-Marx-Platz, which involves demolishing the Paulinerkirche and all remaining university buildings.
The new university complex at Karl-Marx-Platz (today Augustusplatz) includes the Zentralmensa. At two storeys high, it is the biggest Mensa in Leipzig and can cater for up to 1,250 guests. It boasts multiple dining rooms and restaurants, including a coffee bar and even a “Rectors’ Retreat”.
As early as December, talks begin on setting up structures similar to those in West Germany. The following higher education institutions can be found in Leipzig: Karl Marx University, Technical University, School of Management, German College of Physical Culture, College of Education, Academy of Fine Arts, College of Music, Theatre College and Institute for Literature. All of them have their own departments that provide social services (housing, Mensas) for their students.
A decree issued by the GDR Council of Ministers on 18 September allows Studentenwerke to be established. As a result, 12 Studentenwerke are created in the five former East German states as they undergo reunification.
Reunification to today
Studentenwerk Leipzig is re-established on 1 July. BAföG had already come into force for the former East German states on 1 January.
On 1 July, all social services and financial aid functions in the different higher education institutions are transferred to Studentenwerk Leipzig. This includes seven Mensas, 28 cafeterias, and 56 halls of residence and residential buildings. Studentenwerk Leipzig can now conduct independent financial activities. It looks after 18,859 students and employs more than 500 people.
Renovations begin and the first hall of residence to be refurbished is in Tarostraße. The Zentralmensa receives a dishwashing system worth one million DM.
On 7 January, the Law on Studentenwerke in the Free State of Saxony comes into effect. By decree, Studentenwerk Leipzig is now responsible for students at Leipzig University, the Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig, the University of Music and Theatre “Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy” Leipzig and the Leipzig University of Applied Sciences. Not long after, students from the Leipzig Graduate School of Management and the University of Applied Sciences for Telecommunications join.
Studentenwerk Leipzig moves from the university tower at Augustusplatz to Goethestraße 6 (formerly known as the Jenny Marx hall of residence). The social services department is set up. There is now a job centre, childcare facilities, legal assistance and psychological counselling. The social counselling service and the Villa Unifratz day-care centre are added in 1996.
The semester ticket is introduced, and Studentenwerk Leipzig acts as the contracting partner for the public transport company. For the first few years a split-price model is used, but now all higher education institutions receive a full ticket from the Central German Transport Association (MDV).
Studentenwerk Leipzig’s first new hall of residence is built in Mainzer Straße with financial support from the Max Kade Foundation in New York. The building opens for the 1997 winter semester.
In June, Mensa protest days against new subsidy cuts by the Free State of Saxony took place throughout Saxony. The protest days were initiated by the student members of the administrative boards of the Studentenwerke in Saxony.
The Mensa Academica in the south of Leipzig is opened on 25 March and is the first new Mensa building in Saxony.
Renovations on the Nürnberger Straße/Brüderstraße student hall of residence are completed in September. Studentenwerk Leipzig covers all the costs from its own funds. Studentenwerk Leipzig has now renovated each and every one of its student halls of residence.
For the first time since its re-establishment, a student is elected President of Studentenwerk Leipzig’s Administrative Board. Students have equal representation on the board.
On 19 January, the Zentralmensa, built in 1973, closes with a big farewell party; it must be demolished to make way for the new Augustusplatz campus.
The new Mensa am Park is opened on 28 June to replace the Zentralmensa. It is now Studentenwerk Leipzig’s largest Mensa. In only 15 months, one million meals are served.
The Center for Social Services (CSS) opens, uniting various services offered by Studentenwerk Leipzig for students in special social situations. Students with children, foreign students, students in difficult circumstances and students with disabilities can now find help at one centralised location. A second kindergarten for students with children is constructed in the same building; the first was opened in 2010.
The Mensa am Medizincampus is the last Mensa to be renovated. It is reopened on 20 May. The Mensa is located in a multifunctional learning centre at the university’s medical faculty. The modernisation of the facility is paid for entirely through state funding. After 17 years, the Free State of Saxony begins once again to fund student halls of residence.
Student life in Leipzig is not immune to the effects of the corona pandemic. Studentenwerk Leipzig implements various measures to tackle the exceptional situation.
The big day: 7 September marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Leipzig Students’ Economic Aid Association, the association that would eventually become Studentenwerk Leipzig.
Today, Studentenwerk Leipzig looks after around 39,000 students at eight higher education institutions:
- Universität Leipzig,
- Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig,
- Hochschule für Musik und Theater "Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy" Leipzig
- Hochschule für Technik, Wirtschaft und Kultur Leipzig,
- HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management,
- Hochschule für Telekommunikation Leipzig,
- BA Sachsen - Staatliche Studienakademie Leipzig und
- iba Leipzig - Internationale Berufsakademie.
Want to know more? Read the complete history of Studentenwerk Leipzig here:
Chronik des Studentenwerkes Leipzig 1921-2021 (PDF, German)
Anecdotes and stories from people talking about their experiences as students in Leipzig. What was different in the past? How did students live?
"Soon, my monthly scholarship would barely buy me a package of cigarettes. So I became a working student, which meant I worked in an office, was paid with a whole briefcase of cash at the end of the week and had to run if I wanted to buy some food for it. When I reached the first corner, the money was already worth less, than when I had received it at the cash desk. There were Billion-, even Trillion-Mark-Notes. In the end it was hardly enough to pay for a tram ticket. That was in 1923. The studying happened at night ... During the fairs, I was taking my exams in Leipzig, we became walking advertising pillars by wearing the posters and thus earned a few marks." (Erich Kästner, Die chinesische Mauer, aus: Der tägliche Kram © Atrium Verlag AG, Zürich 1948 und Thomas Kästner, eig. Übersetzung)⠀
Erich Kästner (1899-1974), the famous Dresden-born writer, came to Leipzig in 1919 to study history, philosophy, German studies and drama. He obtained his doctorate in Leipzig in 1925. He financed his studies with odd jobs, including work for a number of editorial offices, but also as an address clerk at the office of the Leipzig Trade Fair and as an assistant accountant at the Städtische Baugesellschaft. ⠀
Especially during the time of hyperinflation, the scholarship from his hometown of Dresden did not cover the costs of living. Many students in Leipzig suffered the same fate during this period. The precarious living conditions made the work of the Wirtschaftsselbsthilfevereins an important pre-condition for many students, that allowed them to study.⠀
"We could only cook in a 300-litre steam kettle – that was it."
About food stamps, export beer and the art of improvisation: Read the contemporary witness report by our long-time employee Gerald Hoffmann.
Starting from Scratch: "It Took the Courage to Take Risks."
In this account, you will find out what the situation was like at the Studentenwerk Leipzig after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990. Christiane Claus was the first managing director of the Studentenwerk Leipzig and talks about the intensive work in the Studentenwerk after its reestablishment in 1991.
"The substance of the housing blocks was renewed, and front doors and elevators were replaced."
Farewell to lignite-fired heating, low rents and shared rooms: after the fall of the Berlin Wall, things changed, including for Leipzig's students living in a hall of residence. Frank Kießling recalls the period of renovations that began in 1991.
Did you know?
In the 100 years since the Studentenwerk began operating, a lot of things have happened. We have researched curious and interesting facts, old photos and fascinating stories that we would like to share with you.
Now we are taking a peek into the Mensa pots of the past
The black-and-white photograph shows cooks in the former Mensa "Klubhaus Kalinin" (1963). The Mensa was opened in 1949 in the former restaurant "Naumann-Bräu" in today's Münzgasse. Nowadays, the Kupfersaal, can be found at the location of the former "Kalinin" Mensa. Inside you can still clearly recognise the old structures of the dining hall!
What did the Mensa serve over the past decades? A look at an old menu reveals that potatoes were key.
Sorbian life in Leipzig
10 years ago, a new student hall of residence - especially for Sorbian students - was opened in Arno-Nitzsche-Straße.
Sorbian culture is an integral part of Leipzig as a place to study. In our student residences, this is evident, for example, at the traditional Maypole throwing and the associated celebrations.
90 years ago: First student hall of residence in Leipzig is opening
The first student hall of residence specifically built for student housing in Leipzig was inaugurated in May 1931: the Erich Bethe House accommodated 50 students and had some remarkable features ..
Mensa Academica: The first Mensa in Leipzig
The first Mensa in Leipzig was the Mensa Academica at Ritterstraße 14, where students could get a cheap hot lunch and dinner when the Studentenwerk was first founded.
The so-called "Mensa-Helferschaft" were important. These were Leipzig students who organized the Mensa operations on a voluntary basis. Their tasks included serving meals, serving the Mensa guests at the table, and organizing food. Soon the group consisted of more than 80 students! Only thanks to this kind of volunteer work was it possible to keep the Mensa open at all.
At peak times in the winter semester of 1929/30, there were almost 2,000 Mensa guests at lunchtime and 1,600 in the evening - but there was only room for 360 people at a time. So even then the appeal applied:
"We ask that you do not complicate the smooth running of the operation by standing unnecessarily in the passageways and by remaining seated for too long." (The Leipzig Student Body, 11/11/1929, p. 14)
"And after Mensa to the hairdresser": hairdressing salons in the 1920s
After its founding in 1921, our predecessor, the Wirtschaftsselbsthilfeverein, offered various services to students. The lunch service, financial support or the housing offer still exist today. Less well known are services such as the former bed linen rental, the mending room for clothes or the hairdressing salon. "And after the Mensa to the hairdresser,"said the university chancellor at the time in a speech to promote the service.
Already since 1923 the hairdresser's service belonged to the Wirtschaftsselbsthilfeverein. In 1925, a hair cutting salon was opened at Ritterstraße 14, which was open daily and charged 50 pfennigs for cutting and styling. Later, additional services were added, such as head washing (40 pfennigs) and shaving (15 pfennigs). " Modern-day services" such as hand care, facial steam baths, and head massages were also offered. When the hairdressing salon explicitly advertised a bob cut in 1928, it was understood as a sign that "the hairstyle of emancipated young women had arrived" in Leipzig.
The housing market in our early days
Providing affordable housing for students was one of our central tasks as early as during our founding years in the 1920s. In the beginning, due to the lack of student halls of residence, rooms were rented from private residents - at that time, the process was somewhat different from today:
The Student Housing Office accepted addresses from private residents who offered individual rooms. These addresses were collected in large table-like showcases. The most important information about the individual rooms was noted on removable paper strips: street, suburb, price, light, laundry service, furnishings, etc. These paper strips were taken out by the students if they were interested, and they went to the advertised address and introduced themselves personally. If you did not take the room, you slid the paper strip with the room offer back into the showcase. Quite a sophisticated system!
Today, the Studentenwerk Leipzig offers 15 student halls of residence with a total of about 5,200 rooms.
Free cigarettes for students
Free cigarettes from the Red Cross? That was actually perfectly normal in those days!
In the 1920s, the then Student Welfare Office, in cooperation with the Red Cross, even provided supplies at regular intervals and officially announced the new cigarette deliveries:
"Through the mediation of the Saxonia Red Cross, a larger quantity of cigarettes has again been provided to us for distribution to our fellow students. The cigarettes can be picked up in Lecture Hall 7 daily from 9-11 a.m. upon presentation of the student card." (Welfare Office, 1925)
Cure & Spa Holidays
The promotion of student health was already an important aspect in our founding days in the 1920s. The offers, however, looked a little different than it does today:
One of the services provided by the Wirtschaftsselbsthilfeverein, was to arrange spa stays for students. After enjoying the fresh sea air, they looked forward to an evening at the spa house with music and dancing.
In addition to recreational stays, the Health Care Office also organized special dietary meals in consultation with doctors or offered lie-in cures for students in need of recuperation who were suffering from tuberculosis, which was prevalent at the time. There were even special "resting rooms" with heating, ventilation and loungers for this purpose.
At the Wanderamt, which was also part of the Wirtschaftsselbsthilfeverein, students could also borrow maps and guidebooks, buy winter sports equipment or have their skis repaired.
Deutsches Studentenwerk truns 100
Our umbrella organization also celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2021. On February 19, 1921, the "Wirtschaftshilfe der Deutschen Studentenschaft e.V." was founded in Tübingen. From the year 1929, the organization was continued under the name Deutsches Studentenwerk (DSW), which still exists today as the association of the different Studentenwenwerk organizations.
Messages of congratulations
Our friends and partners from politics, business and society have congratulated us on our 100th anniversary. To them we say a big Thank You!