Dr. Norbert Lammert

President of the Federal Parliament

Between 1969 and 1972 Prof. Dr. Norbert Lammert studied Political Science, Sociology, Newer History and Social Economics at the RUB and in Oxford. In 1972 he completed his diploma in Social Science at the RUB. In 1975 he completed his doctorate at the RUB Faculty of Social Science.

Since 1980 Prof. Dr. Lammert has been a member of the Federal Parliament. From 1989 to 1998 Prof. Dr. Lammert was a Parliamentary State Secretary in several Federal Ministries. Since 2005, he has been President of the Federal Parliament. He has been an honorary professor of the RUB since 2008.

There was a regularly a complete state of bewilderment that a proven as conservative as myself would be studying social science.

RUB Alumni: You came here in 1969 as one of the first to study in Bochum.

Dr. Lammert: A few others were there when I began.

RUB Alumni: Did you ever consider not studying in Bochum?

Dr. Lammert: Actually not. I’m from Bochum and had the typical problems of finding a place to live, etc. Secondly, at that time if you wanted to study the social science there were only two possibilities: Bochum or Konstanz.

RUB Alumni: Of course Konstanz would have been very far away …

Dr. Lammert:… and Konstanz didn’t offer anything that Bochum didn’t offer. These two universities were the only places offering an integrated programme in the social sciences.

RUB Alumni: Do you have a nice anecdote or story that reminds you of your student days?

Dr. Lammert: There was a regularly a complete state of bewilderment that a proven as conservative as myself would be studying social science.

RUB Alumni: Why?

Dr. Lammert: We are talking about the end of the 1960s and beginning 1970s. Studying the social sciences was the theological study for the 68 generation. The fact that a conservative would willingly engage in a ‘red’ study was a source of curiosity and confusion. Later during the period when I was self-employed and before I entered parliament many people speculated on where to place me politically. I even used to have a beard, which was the cliché symbol of social scientists …

RUB Alumni: Long hair as well?

Dr. Lammert: I lost my hair relatively early and therefore there was not much I could do. The nicest speculations were: “You look like a leftie; you speak like a liberal, but the fact that you are allowed to turn up here is an indication that you are probably a conservative.”

RUB Alumni: Do you still have anything left over from you student days?

Dr. Lammert: Yes! I still have the famous plastic student identity card of the first generation of RUB students …

RUB Alumni: A plastic ID?

Dr. Lammert: You probably don’t know about them anymore! In those days there were probably the “first computer readable IDs”. These were punch cards were the size of a briefcase and each semester would have to be newly stamped.

RUB Alumni: Can you think of a motto for your your student day?

Dr. Lammert:… only in a quite unoriginal form: politics is not a science and politics as science is not politics. These are two very different things which one has to discuss.

RUB Alumni: What connection do you see between your study and your current professional activity?

Dr. Lammert: Definitely the concern with history, the rule of law, socioeconomics and (then as today equally unloved) statsistics did not harm my practical political activities. Social scientists – I don’t mean to be exclusive about this – have at least as good an education as lawyers for the different tasks.

RUB Alumni: If you were chancellor or rector of a university today, what would you like to improve on?

Dr. Lammert: Quite a few things. I was in the Ministry of Education for some years and therefore I know how long it takes to get support even from intelligent people for pressing reforms. Much of what I proposed in the 1990s as a Parliamentary Secretary of State in the Ministry of Education or at the Association of Higher Education Institutions was considered blasphemous. For example, the right to select students or student fees – these were considered as uncivilized. This not only impressed me but I also found it very frustrating.

RUB Alumni: This subject is very much a real one now and it sometimes appears as if no thought had been given to it.

Dr. Lammert: Instead of making suggestions of how to improve things I could provide a little motivation for university rectors and chancellors who currently hold office based on my expierence: what is blocked today will be a matter of course in 10 years from now.

RUB Alumni: When you think back to your student days is there something that you miss?

Dr. Lammert: Yes, the enthusiasm for Oxford.

RUB Alumni: When you remember Bochum you think of your enthusiasm for Oxford?

Dr. Lammert: No, you asked what I miss!

RUB Alumni: Okay, was vermissen Sie insgesamt an Ihrer Studienzeit!

Dr. Lammert: As a student I was in Oxford. There isn’t more of a contrast to Bochum. On both sides there were specific things that were very extreme. What you would have considered too structured in Oxford would have been considered as too underdeveloped in Bochum. The relaxedness of Bochum was contrasted with the extreme discipline of Oxford. The confusion of Bochum stood in comparison to the neat organization of the Oxford colleges.

RUB Alumni: Is there something that you miss when you think back to your days at the Ruhr-Universität?

Dr. Lammert: Yes. I am unsure, for instance, whether I would have preferred to complete my studies in Oxford or in Bochum. As far as my own needs were concerned, Bochum was better. The college discipline in Oxford would have got on my nerves over a longer period. But Oxford has produced more prime ministers than the Ruhr-Universität has produced chancellors, even when one takes university chancellors into account.

RUB Alumni: If you were to choose you study again, would you still choose social sciences?

Dr. Lammert: Yes! There are few other disciplines that offer such a broad spectrum of subjects and allow for so many different orientations.

RUB Alumni: Incendently, did you require a lot of time to find your way through the building?

Dr. Lammert: Have you ever met anybody who can easily find their way through these buildings?

RUB Alumni: I still get lost. That means like all others you got lost.

Dr. Lammert: During my days there was a very persistent rumour that there were a whole sries of rooms which had never been found.

RUB Alumni: Is there anything that you would like to pass on to today’s students?

Dr. Lammert: That really sounds like being the good uncle. I do, however, have one very general tip and a suggestion as regards studying. The general recommendation is that what you choose to study does not necessary play an important role for your career. What is important is your interests and talents, which are not the same. Therefore I really suggest students work out for themselves what really interests them and what they are able to do. The second, study tip: languages! Today I would probably spend a little less time on the breadth of my study and instead learn a second or third foreign language. The opportunities for this later in life are limited.

RUB Alumni: Dr. Lammert, thank you very much for your time.

Dr. Lammert: A pleasure!