The Department of Geo and Environmental Engineering (BGU) of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) is one of the leading institutions for research and teaching in the fields of civil engineering, environmental engineering, geodesy, applied geosciences and related fields. It is part of the Technical University of Munich, whose departments and multi-disciplinary facilities provide an excellent breeding ground for interdisciplinary research. The department benefits from its position in the center of Munich, alongside the Ludwig-Maximilian University (LMU) and other excellent institutions in the immediate neighborhood. It fosters various kinds of cooperation with these institutions.
Sufficient and sustainable maintenance of the built environment, where the achievements of modern technology serve the common goals of humanity, is a key requirement for the social development and furtherance of human creativity. The department is concerned with the built environment and the sustainable and supervised relation with the planet Earth as the basis for ensuring the daily living and security needs of society. The central concerns of the department are summarized in its mission statement – Construction, Infrastructure, Environment, Planet Earth.
The built environment is to a large extent created, maintained and further developed by engineers. The influence of buildings and infrastructure systems on the environment are planned, observed and directed with care and responsibility by engineers. A core element of the engineering disciplines of the department is the planning, preparation and monitoring of prototypes, custom-made and complex systems which interact strongly with their environment and which significantly influence and change it, e.g. by applied forces, energy and material consumption, emissions or imposed forms. This distinguishes the department from other engineering departments and requires specially adapted methods, models and systems to deal with these issues.
The applied scientists in the fields of civil engineering, environmental engineering, geodesy and the applied geosciences are also facilitators for different areas of expertise, particularly other engineering disciplines, the natural sciences, economics, the social sciences and architecture. Without this facilitation by civil and environmental engineers, surveyors, engineering geologists, findings from other disciplines are difficult to input into the development of the built environment.
The complexity of the various facets of the built environment requires the interaction of different professional profiles and human talents, and is addressed and supported by the BGU and the Department of Architecture in collaboration. At their numerous interfaces the specific cultures of both departments create a stimulating environment, from which the future players in the development of buildings and infrastructure systems will emerge. The current coexistence of the two departments is an important prerequisite for targeted support and development of individual talents with clear profiles and competencies.
University educated civil and environmental engineers, surveyors and engineering geologist form those social groups that deal with construction, the interaction of the built environment with the natural environment and technical systems of the built environment, at the highest level of responsibility and in the greatest depth. This group has, in highly developed countries like Germany, responsibility for well over 40% of all energy and material consumption and 10% of economic output, as well as comprising about one-tenth of the workforce.
As the only Department of Geo and Environmental Engineering in Bavaria, the department therefore carries a special responsibility for research and science-oriented teaching in all relevant areas. In consequence of its uniqueness, a complete, and not merely selective, portfolio of cutting-edge research is expected.
The department benefits from its unique position in Munich and Bavaria, and sees itself as a catalyst for the transition, implementation and tracking of scientific knowledge in practice. It is also a central point of contact for the transfer of knowledge to government agencies, professional associations, and representatives in all areas of construction and environmental engineering, applied geosciences and geodesy.
The professors here are also responsible for bringing their expertise and knowledge to bear on the development of standards, in policy-making and the training of engineers. After successful completion of their doctoral thesis, a large number of former department researchers take up key positions in industry and administration. They are an important pillar of knowledge transfer and contact between the department and practice.
The department is thus embedded in a long tradition in Bavaria, which for over 200 years has been a model for the most up-to-date management of the built environment, infrastructure development, and the careful use of resources and nature, and this in a region whose technical achievements are world-renowned. The now 145 year success of the department is reflected in the high quality of the built and natural environment in Bavaria.
The department aims to strike a balance between fundamental research and state-of-the-art application-oriented research. Only by covering both aspects the department can meet its social mission of facilitating the transfer of knowledge into practice while remaining a forerunner in science.
To meet the challenge of the widest possible scientific portfolio, the department maintains a continuous process of dialogue and discussion as well as implementing necessary enhancements and changes. The department has created internal structures that support and monitor these continuous processes of change and implementation. Thus, in the last decade, a large number of new complementary fields have been identified, developed and integrated into the department, reflecting both global challenges and concrete social requirements. Regarding its areas of activity and its portfolio, there are hardly other departments that are currently really comparable (2013). At the national level, the department aligns itself most closely with TU Dresden, RWTH Aachen and KIT in Karlsruhe, at the European level, with ETH Zurich and TU Delft, and internationally with MIT and Stanford University.
The department actively pursues inter- and intra- department interaction. It is concerned to ensure the continuous refinement and improvement of the departments’ communication process. Within this process, there will be ongoing opportunities for identifying interdisciplinary links and establishing targeted collaborations, dual memberships, and joint research projects, as well as the creation of integrated research centers – strongly anchored in the department. Currently (as of 2013), the department's research activities are clustered around five Focus Areas and provide a framework for further development within the department. The issues dealt with there illustrate the department mission statement "construction, infrastructure, environment, planet earth," and fit seamlessly into the TUM strategy as expressed within the Excellence Initiative in 2011.
The professors of the department offer their academic staff an attractive working environment, which motivates the best talent for scientific work. They see doctoral research as an area of professional scientific activity rather than another cycle of academic training. The professors ensure that the scientific findings are made available to the scientific community in high-quality internationally visible formats.
Alongside the department chairs and professorships, extensive laboratory facilities are available for scientific research and for the implementation of scientific findings. These represent a key requirement for the advancement of construction technology. The department laboratories serve as competence centers necessary for the statutory tasks of building, industrial innovation and international standardization. These tasks synergistically provide both, a source of ideas and for financing the proper facilities for scientific work.
The department continually monitors and discusses the ways of sorting of its disciplines in courses of study with regard of career development and societal needs. In particular, it reflects sustainability and long-term viability in the professions, and opposes short-lived trends. The department professors discuss the needs of society, accompanied by activities and reflections with stakeholders, such as government agencies, chambers of engineers, professional associations, and accreditation bodies. The department sees itself not only as a partner of professional practice, but as a mentor for the development of professional profiling and training systems, thereby advancing them. Through good information policy and open discussions with professional practice, the department adapts to change processes and the fears often associated with them.
The department considers latest developments in its teaching. It was one of the first schools to implement the Bologna process and considers such processes as an opportunity to proactively develop further.
The department is committed to broad-based undergraduate programs in the disciplines of civil and environmental engineering, geodesy, and engineering geology. It is convinced that a broad foundation is essential for the individual professional development. It therefore gives priority to broadly drafted programs in opposite to programs addressing a specific focus, on only those topics relevant to current professional requirements.
Given that for university graduates a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering is not an end in itself but a stepping stone to further qualification, the department offers consecutive Master’s degree programs.
The department is also developing more non-consecutive Master's programs to meet new priorities or specific professional profiles. These are oriented to key questions, such as: (i) To what extent are graduates of Master's programs equipped with interdisciplinary skills, which afford new opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration? (ii) Can the unique features and specialist skills of the department be combined into coherent elements in Master's programs, which attract the best international students to the department? (iii) Can good solutions to global challenges be aggregated, for example, with regard to development aid?
The department promotes the development of key skills, which prepare students for professional development in the context of lifelong learning. A trust-based and open dialogue with the students which allows them to have their say is an essential pillar for the development the study program.
The department feels confirmed in its approach to teaching thanks to feedback from students and from the professional world; it is not complacent about positive reviews, but continues to conduct assessments at regular intervals via maintenance of good contacts with its alumni.
The department is aware that in an export nation the demand for engineers in science and practice is not correlated with population growth. It therefore responds to the prospective shortage of engineers by improving the visibility of the course content and by internationalization, with the aim of inspiring the best talents worldwide to enroll on its engineering programs.
It has been committed to sustainable internationalization for many years. The department has numerous collaborations with various universities both inside and outside the European Union and this will further intensify. Currently in 2013, 7 of its 12 Master’s programs are taught entirely in English. In an intensive discussion process - also with the main stakeholders in the professional world – it has developed a format for extension of internationalization, whereby international students with little or no knowledge of German have access to all Master’s programs, and where they are prepared alongside the German students for the German employment market.
The department is above the benchmark among the German engineering departments in terms of the number of female students enrolled. The department aims to attract talented people – regardless of gender or origin – by means of attractive new approaches to teaching and presentation of its own research-oriented and practical content, along with a spectrum of activities of various formats.
The department practices professional course management and it is part of its mission to constantly improve in this area. Via goal-oriented division of labor and smart use of intra- department synergies, the department seeks, as far as possible, to relieve its academic staff of the burden of administrative and course management responsibilities.
The overall mission of the department is to maintain its excellent reputation and further develop in both the national and international contexts. The department sees itself as a modern unit, which is well positioned to address the transformation processes of changing societal challenges and the resulting demands on science and teaching.