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“You Don’t Automatically Get to Do Research in Your First Semester”

Research-Based Learning: First-Semester Students Present an Initial Study on Possible Partial Relocation to Bremen’s City Center

Teaching & Studies

Researching relevant issues and gaining scientific experience are things that geography students can start doing straight away in their first semester through the “Introductory Project” module run by Professor Ivo Mossig. During the winter semester, a group of students conducted a study about a partial relocation of the university to the city center. In doing so, they made an important contribution to the current debate.

The idea of relocating part of the university to Bremen’s city center has been around for some time. The city of Bremen is currently having a feasibility study carried out on the construction options, spatial requirements, costs, and so on. The introductory project at the Institute of Geography saw four students, only in their first semester, studying the extent to which a partial relocation would lead to a change in transportation patterns. Specifically, they investigated a partial relocation to the former main building of the savings bank at Am Brill. It was the first study of its kind.

Lasse Frauenheim, Jakob Merkens, Paul Mörker, and Anton Richter designed and carried out the study. Based on a survey of students at the University of Bremen, they recorded the transportation modes chosen, the journey times to the university, the rating of transportation connections at the relevant campus locations, and if students were for or against a partial relocation. They concluded that the transportation patterns changed according to a student’s place of residence. Rejection or approval of the idea was closely linked to whether the students’ travel time to university would be longer or shorter.

Kreisdiagramme zur Verkehrsmittelnutzung der Studierenden
Transportation usage by students from Neustadt and Horn-Lehe to travel to the existing campus and the potential “Am Brill” campus
© Universität Bremen

Research on a Current Topic

At the beginning of the seminar, it was quickly clear that the four wanted to study transportation. They say that it was a given that they would want to question how the proposed second campus in the city would affect student transportation patterns and that the move being discussed is a relevant issue which interests them.

Research-based learning from the outset is a hallmark of studying at the University of Bremen. At the Institute of Geography, it is practiced in the introductory project for first-semester students. The geography students work in small groups on an issue of their choice, using their own empirical approach and presenting the results on a poster displayed publicly at the institute. “The main objective of a university degree is for students to be able to acquire in-depth, specialist knowledge and do academic work independently,” says Professor Ivo Mossig, who offered the seminar together with research assistant Daniel Schuster during the 2021/22 winter semester, “We, the teaching staff, therefore have to approach them as prospective researchers during their studies and confront them with corresponding tasks.”

Crucial to Work with Data Obtained Personally

Becoming a researcher in their first semester was a great experience for the four geography students. “You don’t automatically get to do research right in your first semester. Being guided by teaching staff and learning scientific methods through project work was really cool,” says Paul Mörker.

Above all, the experience of working with data that they themselves collected is important for their further studies, and they all agree on that. Jakob Merkens says, “It was a good mix of literature-based and field-data-based work, especially for our topic in particular. I thought it was great and important to work directly with data right away in our first semester.” Anton Richter says, “It was great to analyze the data and see what conclusions we could draw from the data from a survey.”

Teaching Award for Introductory Project

For Lasse Frauenheim, the link to research practice has another advantage: “When you say ‘I study geography,’ the first question after is usually ‘What do you do with that?’ It was really nice to counteract that directly and do work with practical relevance.”

Ivo Mossig was awarded the 2020 award for “Innovative University Teaching in Geography” by the Association for Geography at German-Language Universities and Research Institutions (VGDH) for his Introductory Project module.

Research-Based Learning at the University of Bremen

Together with the two university lecturers, the four students published their study “Change in the Transportation Patterns of Students If the University of Bremen Were Partially Relocated to ‘Am Brill’” in the articles on economic geography and regional development.

Research-based learning has been a priority of the University of Bremen since it was founded more than 50 years ago. In recent years, concepts for research-based learning have been integrated into numerous degree courses at all faculties, linking research and teaching even more closely to each other.

The “Introductory Geography Project” seminar is a compulsory module in the first semester of the single-major bachelor’s degree program with 4 hours of classroom teaching per week and 9 credit points (CP). In small groups of about 25 people, supported by two teaching staff and a tutor, the students complete a research cycle within a project group of no more than six people.


The study „Veränderung des Mobilitätsverhaltens der Studierenden bei einem Teilumzug der Universität Bremen an den Standort ,Am Brill‘“ can be downloaded here.

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