„If you wanted to, you could create. All doors were open.”

Dragged by the enthusiasm of the german reunification, Kai Hörig took part in the Administrative Board of the Studentenwerk during his studies in the 90s. In this Interview he speaks about the development of the Studentenwerk at that time.
Gründung des Studentenclubs Stuk, Kai Hörig, Studentenwerk Leipzig
Opening of the Student Club “StuK” in 1997 in the Student Hall of Residence in Nürnberger Straße, Kai Erik Hörig (r.) with students and Wolfgang Tiefensee, the former mayor of Leipzig (middle)
Kai Erik Hörig mit Studierenden bei einem Austausch des Studentenwerkes Leipzig und dessen Partner-Studentenwerk in Straßburg (Frankreich), 1998
Kai Erik Hörig with students on an exchange between the Studentenwerk Leipzig and their partner Studentenwerk in Strasbourg (France), 1998

When Kai Hörig first came to the Administrative Board of Studentwerk in the early 90s, the digitalisation had just begun. “The Internet and everything else, that is self- evident nowadays, was nearly non-existent yet.” Hörig never wanted to be part of the Administrative Board before. But this coincidence turned out to be a fascinating, lasting experience and Hörig was dragged by the “athmosphere of departure” at that time, “that was felt in all the committees”, as he sais.

As a student of mathematics, he partook in the plenum of StudentInnenRat at the University. “Back then the election of the representative committee took place. “They forgot to ask if someone still wanted to stand for the election, so I’ve been asking them If they could at least catch up on that question”, Hörig remembers. “It was done, and logically I wanted to stand for the election and I was elected.”

Partnership between Studentenwerk and Student Union

Auch eine Aufgabe: Gemeinsam mit der ehemaligen Studentenwerks-Geschäftsführerin Christiane Claus auf einer Studierenden-Messe
Another task: Together with the former Studentenwerk- Manager Christiane Claus on a Student fair. (Photograph: Tom Schulze)

He further got elected to the Administrative Board and worked there for five Years. These years shaped him. “It was a real achievement for the East, to have an equality of students in the committee.” Till now this is not the case in most western federal states, Hörig claims. Thus Studentenwerk Leipzig differs from many other facilities since hundreds of years. With the establishment they codified an equal right for students to participate - a rarity for an area that is mostly dominated by professors.

“I see it as a great chance to have the students, so to speak our clients, with us as partner and decision- maker in the development of the Studentenwerke. Next to the idealistic one this is an economical pound as well. We were solution-oriented and not strongly politicised – which was what the StuRa council-model was aiming for. “You can reach more with participation. From my perspective as student this partnership between Studentenwerk and StuRa has proven itself. The best thing about this time: If you wanted to, you could create. All doors were open.”

Mobility for everyone

During his time the first Semesterticket was negotiated and a basic fee was introduced at his suggestion. “It was a nationwide novelty that we also planned a mobility fund. It was about promoting mobility more broadly than just in public transport. Our Leipzig model, as it was then called nationwide, also financed a self-help bicycle workshop, hundreds of bicycle racks and promoted car sharing.

The Studentenwerk goes online

When he left the board of directors, Hörig worked as a student assistant in various positions and developed the first website of Studentenwerk Leipzig. He also programmed the first facility management software and the first software for job placement. "You would no longer let students take such personal responsibility for this kind of projects." "Creating for a good and important cause," says Hörig as the reason why he continued to work at the Studentenwerk and started a career there.

Foundation of the STUK

Hörig then remembers something that many forgot. He was also involved in the founding of the student club STUK in 1997, which was a merge of smaller clubs. The Studentenwerk provided rooms and co-financed. "The patron is still Wolfgang Tiefensee, who later was Leipzig's Lord Mayor and is now Minister of Economics in Thüringen."

Portrait von Kai Hörig
Kai Hörig

Kai Hörig studied mathematics in Leipzig. From 1994 to 2000 he was on the administrative board of the Studentenwerk Leipzig and from 1996 to 1999 he was on the board of the German Student Union (DSW). Later Hörig also worked as a student assistant in the student union. From 2004 to 2015 he was head of the student housing department at the Studentenwerk Leipzig. Kai Hörig has been the managing director of the Studentenwerk Rostock-Wismar since 2015.

Interview: Tobias Prüwer

Find out more about the history of Studentenwerk Leipzig

The Administrative Board of Studentenwerk Leipzig

The Management and the Administrative Board are the decision-making bodies of the Studentenwerk Leipzig. In accordance with the Saxon University Freedom Act, major decisions are made by the Administrative Board of the Leipzig Student Union, which is made up of equal numbers of student and non-student representatives. The members of the Board of Directors work on a voluntary basis. The Administrative Board sets up committees for certain areas such as culture, social affairs and the semester ticket.