ELI Interviews the Outgoing Rector of the University of Vienna


The former Rector of the University of Vienna, o Univ-Prof Dipl-Ing Dr Heinz W Engl, has spoken to ELI about his successes, the key to overcoming modern day challenges, the importance of the rule of law, and what it will take to ensure ELI remains at the forefront of legal reform.

Your leadership as Vice-Rector (2007–2012) and Rector (2013–2022) of the University of Vienna brought you important successes. What was the key to those important successes?
Excellent teams, friction-free cooperation with Senate, University Council and the teams, and finally a large budget increase from 2017, which we could use for 80 additional professorial and tenure track hirings.

Circumstances forced you to go through difficult times in the course of your leadership of the University of Vienna, marked by recession, pandemic and war in Europe, among other things. The pandemic and war are still not over yet and another recession looms. What do Europeans need to overcome these and future challenges?
Even more unity than shown during these crises, and strengthening the trust in science as one (not the only) basis of political decisions.

How important is it in our times for jurists to be schooled on defending democracy and the rule of law?
More important than ever in the last decades. The University of Vienna with its broad profile and international orientation can contribute to this.

Amongst many pleas for support, you chose to back ELI several times. What made you opt to fund our Institute since its establishment in 2011?
Its continued success both in the EU arena and also in strong involvement of our Law Faculty.

ELI has already accomplished a lot in the past 11 years. What, in your view, are the greatest challenges that lie ahead for ELI in the years to come?
Constant evolution of its profile and mission and thereby making itself indispensable for the EU and the University of Vienna.

After 5 years at the helm of the oldest university in the German-speaking world, that is also one of the largest and most renowned in Europe and that is associated with 21 Nobel Prize Winners, one might long to take some time off. What are your plans once you hang your hat up as Rector?
Nobel Prizes at the University of Vienna have been some time ago, but even more important is the success of our researcher in ERC funding: more than 90 ERC awards up to now. Besides observing how the University will develop further under even more difficult circumstances, I will be able to spend much more time with my family including 2 grandchildren, one living in the U.S. and the other one to be born in Austria soon.

As you leave, what are your parting words to ELI?
I am glad that I made the decision to make a bid for the ELI Secretariat in 2011, and the success of ELI confirmed my decision, which might have been a bit bold then.

ELI is extremely grateful to the outgoing Rector for his foresight and for his decision to allow the University of Vienna to bid to host the ELI Secretariat in Vienna in 2011.

ELI is also indebted for his decision to grant successive extensions of the Framework Cooperation Agreement. 

The interview was published in the July–August 2022 issue of ELI's Newsletter which can be found here