100 years of research since October 21, 1919: From the Imperial Export Academy to the University of World Trade
WU officially became a research institution on October 21, 1919. On this historic day, a legal decree was passed turning the Imperial Export Academy into the University of World Trade, the predecessor of today’s WU. Now, 100 years later, research is a key element of WU’s identity and provides the foundation for the university’s research-led teaching. To celebrate this special anniversary, WU launched the 100 Years of Research (100 Jahre Forschung) campaign in 2019, answering questions submitted by the public. By the time the campaign closes at the end of this year, WU’s researchers will have provided a total of 100 answers to these questions.
To commemorate its 100-year research anniversary in 2019, WU has set itself the goal of making research more visible, immediate, and useful, and of strengthening its dialog with the public. The 100jahreforschung.at platform gives interested members of the public the opportunity to ask WU researchers their own questions. The platform has been open since December 2018, and the university started posting answers early this year. “We will answer 100 of the many excellent questions that have been submitted by the end of the year,” Rector Edeltraud Hanappi-Egger explains, continuing, “We are pleased to see that there is so much interest in WU’s work. At the same time, this initiative shows the high demand for fact-based knowledge. We have received numerous questions on topics like sustainability, digitalization, investments, and financing, but also on legal issues and topics like the effects of the upcoming Brexit. This confirms that our research areas are entirely in line with the times.” The platform will be open for further questions until the end of the year.
The birth of research at WU
The Imperial Export Academy was founded in 1898. It was intended to equip Austria’s tradespeople with all the “tools of modern commercial education.” Demand was high, and soon the Academy needed more space. In 1917, the Imperial Export Academy relocated from its original building, the Palais Festetics in Vienna’s 9th district, to a newly constructed building in Währinger Park. After years of careful preparation, including an expert opinion from Hans Kelsen commissioned by the faculty, the Imperial Export Academy officially became the University of World Trade by legal decree of the Constituent National Assembly on October 21, 1919.
It was intended to “offer a place for academic teaching and research in the fields of trade, the world economy, and international studies.” The wording chosen already emphasizes the difference to the Imperial Export Academy: The term “research” was used in the university’s course catalog for the first time. “Research and research-led teaching are inextricably linked with today’s WU. Research not only creates the basis for solving current and future social and economic challenges and problems, it also teaches us to think and reflect critically in all areas of life,” explains WU Rector Edeltraud Hanappi-Egger. Today, with 1,600 researchers on its faculty, WU is one of the top business and economics universities in Europe and is very well positioned in numerous international rankings.
No doctoral degrees until 1930
Unlike other universities in Austria, the conversion of the Imperial Export Academy into a university was supervised by the Ministry of Trade, working in cooperation with the Ministry of Education. “Even though the legal foundations were laid down successively during the 1919/20 winter semester, students could already enroll starting on October 1, 1919, and the study regulations, disciplinary regulations, library regulations, and the ‘Regulations for holding diploma examinations at the University of World Trade’ were approved on September 13, 1919 by the Federal Ministry for Trade and Commerce, Industry and Construction in agreement with the Federal Ministry of the Interior and Education,” explains historian Johannes Koll, head of the WU University Archives. The University of World Trade offered one six-semester diploma program. However, the right to award doctorates was not granted until 1930, after many years of preparation.
Anna Maria Schwendinger
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