The eventful founding years
Cautios developments thanks to Karen Gloy, Guy P. Marchal and Walter Kirchschläger
After the cantonal referendum on 9th July 1978 voted against the proposed Lucerne university, the Faculty of Theology continued to operate as the sole tertiary college in Lucerne, and gradually expanded the range of courses on offer. In 1984, the Faculty started a department of philosophy under the leadership of Prof. Karen Gloy from Heidelberg, and a department of history was added in 1989, with Prof. Guy Marchal from the University of Basel as head.
In 1993, the departments of philosophy and history were combined into a faculty of their own, and the Hochschule Luzern (forerunner of the University of Lucerne) was created with two faculties, Theology and Humanities.
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Cautious developments thanks to Karen Gloy, Guy P. Marchal and Walter Kirchschläger
After the Lucerne university project had failed in the memorable referendum of 9th July 1978, only the old Theological Faculty continued to exist. It stood on a solid foundation; since 1970 it had been endowed with the right to award academic degrees, and in 1973 it was granted the status of a subsidized institution in accordace with Swiss law on university funding.
The defeat continued to have an impact: for the time being, no further development of the Lucerne study programme was conceivable. More than a decade passed before even the smallest of changes became possible. The first initiative came from the professors themselves. This initiative benefited from the fact that philosophy had always been taught as a fundamental subject of theology. Here an expansion could begin by initiating an independent study of philosophy that was not limited to theology. In 1984, the Canton of Lucerne founded an Institute of Philosophy and appointed Karen Gloy from Heidelberg to the new chair. She was the first woman ever to hold a professorship in Lucerne. Thereby it became possible to obtain a degree in philosophy from a higher education institution. This expanded both the academic spectrum and the circle of prospective students. At the same time as the Institute of Philosophy was founded, the Canton of Lucerne moved the Faculty of Theology from its provisional location at the cantonal teacher training college at Hirschengraben to a freshly renovated building converted for this purpose at 20 Pfistergasse. Thus, after more than a hundred years, it once again had its own, very well-equipped building with a proper study library. This move improved the Faculty’s visibility, making it possible to hold academic events, lecture evenings and panel discussions and thereby reach a broader audience.
The second, and again cautious expansion followed in 1989, creating the decisive conditions for future development. A new Chair of General and Swiss History was established at the Institute of Philosophy. The well-known medievalist Guy P. Marchal, who is also highly regarded in Central Switzerland, was successfully recruited for this chair. Marchal was known in the scholarly community as well as to the Lucerne public. This was thanks to his research on the formation of Lucerne's territorial rule, research which he had been commissioned to undertake in view of the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Sempach in 1386. He built up the new History Department as a modern, internationally networked research institution, and with great pioneering spirit he launched a new course. On his initiative, academic conferences with considerebal impact were held. Early on, he institutionalized an exchange with the history departments of the universities of Western Switzerland.
Anyone in Lucerne who advocated an innovative higher education policy at that time had to go little step by little step. It proved to be a fortunate coincidence that in the autumn of 1990 the Viennese New Testament scholar, Walter Kirchschläger, took over the leadership of the Faculty. Kirchschläger was a recognized scholar who distinguished himself with his above-average organizational and negotiating skills. Under his leadership, the Philosophy and the History Departments were separated from the Faculty of Theology and merged into a separate, new faculty. The necessary change in the law required a high degree of persuasiveness. Kirchschläger succeeded in winning over politicians and other influential persons. On 14th September 1993, the Swiss Parliament approved the change. From then, a Faculty of Theology and a Faculty of Humanities existed under the common roof of the ‘Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts’. Two years later, when preparations began in the Department of Education for the founding of a Central Swiss University of Applied Sciences, it was renamed as the ‘Universitäre Hochschule Luzern’.
In addition to the new internal structure, it was necessary to establish future-oriented external relations. The aim was to ensure a solid anchoring in the Swiss university landscape. Walter Kirchschläger set out on a ‘Tour de Suisse’. He visited the rectors of all ten of the universities existing at that time and registered Central Switzerland's claim to participate – to which the majority responded positively. In the end, the Rector of Lucerne succeeded in getting himself, and his successors, accepted into the Swiss University Rectors' Conference with the status of ‘permanent guest’. Since then, a Lucerne representative has always belonged to that close circle that sets the decisive course of federal university policy in Switzerland. Within a few years, this success that had been largely achieved in silence, was to take on a significance hardly anyone could have initially estimated.