why ifu ?

introduction | history | concept | set-up | trustees | addresses | venues | supporters



ifu - the International Women's University "Technology and Culture"- is the first and, so far, only gender-specific university of its kind in Europe - a bold innovation by, for, and about women. ifu is an international university, interdisciplinary in scope and methodology of academic work, and intercultural across all political borders as well as ethnic and religious divides.

ifu's first semester, under the overall theme of "Technology and Culture", will offer postgraduate academic studies in six Project Areas which are of special topical interest to the women of the world as we enter the new millennium: BODY, CITY, INFORMATION, MIGRATION, WATER and WORK. These themes are of global significance, politically and socially explosive and arguably, because of their strong focus on gender, they are also heuristically and epistemologically ground-breaking.

ifu has provided three months of regular classes and cooperative research, with more traditionally conceptualized courses, lectures and workshops combined with more non-conventional forms of expression, e.g. theater performances, video presentations and other forms of cultural expression and communication, according to the genius of the participants, cultural backgrounds and heritage. In addition, ifu has provided excursions to other parts of Germany, for inspiration, socializing, and recreation.

After October 2000, a permanent women's network is planned to be established for an exchange of ideas and knowledge transfer among ifu alumnae on the basis of their cooperation while the University was in session.

In a more longer-range perspective, and supported by modern information technologies, the establishment of a modified "virtual" university is planned to serve this purpose systematically and with various forms of institutional support.




Although a decidedly international project, the emergence of ifu has its clear roots in a nationally-specific historical process of implementing women's and gender studies within German academia. The idea can be traced back to the work of the first Niedersachsen Commission on Women's Research. Members of the commission included feminist scholars and women in the academy such as Regina Becker-Schmidt, Bärbel Clemens, Carol Hagemann-White, Erika Hickel, Freia Hoffmann, Margrit Kennedy, Gudrun Axeli Knapp, Marianne Kriszio, Carola Lipp, Sigrid Metz-Göckel, Aylâ Neusel, Heide Rosenbaum, Ingeborg Wender and Anja Wolde. The report of the commission, published in 1994, recommended to the then Minister of Science, Helga Schuchardt, that a women's university be set up.

This recommendation was taken up by the second Niedersachsen Commisson on Women's Research and specified by defining five so-called research perspectives: INTELLIGENCE, INFORMATION, BODY, WATER and CITY. When the commission's report was presented to the public in January 1997, Science Minister Helga Schuchardt agreed to support the project. This marked the beginning of the ifu.

The project's conceptual phase began in the summer of 1997 with the call to set up the supporting society. The founding members included numerous well-known personalities in politics, science and the media. The conceptual phase culminated in the founding of the International Women's University (ifu) as a non-profit-making GmbH (ltd.) in March 1999. The two founding dates - that of the supporting society and that of ifu GmbH - signal the beginning and end of a highly inventive, productive and successful period during which the ifu concept took on an increasingly concrete form. The period from April 1999 on has been devoted to implementing the concept. The climax was, of course, the presence phase of the ifu: over 900 women came to Niedersachsen for a term of 3 months in the summer of 2000. Originally intended to be dissolved on the 31st of December 2000 the ifu GmbH is now in liquidation up to the 31st of March 2001. But this won't be the end of ifu. It is supposed to be continued in shape of an ifu society and the virtual back-up on the net is now and will be the virtual ifu.




Various world conferences held over the past few years such as the UN conference in Rio de Janeiro (1992), the UN Women's Conference in Bejing (1994) and Habitat II in Istanbul (1996) have addressed issues crucial to the future of humankind. Such issues have also been crucial to scientific and technical areas of women's research during the last years. Given this background, the International Women's University has the following aims:

  • to provide the chance for female researchers (both, senior and young) to present their special contributions in the six project areas of the International Women's University;
  • to encourage cooperative interdisciplinary teaching and research of established and young academic women in these topics, in order to harness their innovative capacity;
  • to open up a permanent network to academic women on a worldwide level which would strengthen the existing academic structures and enrich the contents of their disciplines;
  • to combine the added value of international cooperation with the innovative effects of paradigm changing approaches of women's research;
  • to interweave the theories, concepts, and strategies used by artists and scientists.

All in all, the concept of the ifu comprises "five Is" as guiding principles:

  • the INTERDEPENDENCE and INTERACTION of science and society
  • the INTEGRATION of science and other social practices including the arts
  • the IMPLEMENTATION of women's studies and gender studies as well as


Institutional and legal set-up

ifu was originally founded as the registered society "Internationale Frauenuniversität e.V." in July 1997. On March 31st 1999, the Federal State of Niedersachsen and the International Women's University Assocation jointly founded the International Women's University GmbH as a private company.

Prof. Dr. Aylâ Neusel is now president of ifu and at the same time its scientific director.

Dr. Carsten Carstensen, head of the finance department at the Volkswagen Foundation, assumes the position of business director as a sideline obligation.

Former Minister of Science and Culture, State of Niedersachsen, Helga Schuchardt and Prof. Dr. Liselotte Glage, Vice-president of the University of Hannover, are seconded from the ifu Association to the company's supervisory board, as are Martina Wethkamp, section head in the Finance Ministry of Niedersachsen, and Dr. Uwe Reinhardt, vice secretary in the Ministry for Science and Culture of the Federal State of Niedersachsen.

Other members of the ifu supervisory board are Prof. Dr. Marlis Dürkop, Hamburg, and Prof. Dr. Manfred Stassen, in charge of EXPO 2000 for the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).



Board of Trustees

According to stipulations in the shareholders agreement of ifu Ltd., a board of trustees is to be constituted and composed of international personalities from the scientific, economic, political and social sectors. 14 members have been appointed by the supervisory board of ifu for the year 2000. It is their task to advise ifu on academic matters, to accompany and evaluate the implementation of the ifu project and help ensure its sustainability after the year 2000. 29 July and 7 October 2000 had been set apart for the board to convene in Hannover this year.

The members are:

  • Dr. Sang Chang, President of Ewha Womans University, Seoul
  • Catherine David, Head curator of the National Museums, Director of Documenta X Kassel, Paris
  • Dr. Ursula Engelen-Kefer, Deputy chairperson of the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB), Member of the Economic and Social Committee of the European Union, Berlin
  • Aruna Gnanadason, Coordinator of the Justice, Peace and Creation Team, Programme Executive Women's Desk World Council of Churches, Geneva
  • Heidrun Merk, Minister for Women, Labour and Social Affairs of the state of Niedersachsen, Hannover
  • Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor, Chancellor of the Cape Technikon, Member of Parliament, Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Cape Town
  • Dr. Nafis Sadik, Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), New York
  • Inge Sandstedt , President of the Federation of German Women Entrepreneurs (Verband deutscher Unternehmerinnen e.V.), Bremen
  • Prof. Dr. habil. Dagmar Schipanski, Minister of Science, Research and Art of the state of Thüringen, Erfurt
  • Alice Schwarzer, Essayist, publisher and editor in-chief of the magazine EMMA, Founder and head of the Feminist archive and documentation centre "FrauenMedia Turm", Köln
  • Jadwiga S. Sebrechts, Ph.D., President of the Women's College Coalition, Washington, D.C.
  • Prof. Komlavi Seddoh, Director of the Division of Higher Education, UNESCO, Paris
  • Dr. Vandana Shiva, Director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy, Recipient of the Tight Livelihood Award, Alternative Nobel Prize. New Delhi
  • Jane Zhang, Director of the Bureau for Gender Equality, International Labour Office (ILO), Geneva


President's office

Adelheid Schneidewind (assistant), schneidewind@ifu.niedersachsen.de
Caroline von Klitzing (personal consultant), vonklitzing@ifu.niedersachsen.de
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Aylâ Neusel, president@ifu.niedersachsen.de

Project Area Water

IFU / Project Area Water
FH Nordostniedersachsen
Location Suderburg
Herbert-Meyer-Str. 7
D-29556 Suderburg



Participating universities




and many others.

introduction | history | concept | set-up | trustees | addresses | venues | supporters| top of page

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