President Joachim Nagel at the lecture in Hachenburg ©Alexandra Lechner

The President’s sudden appearance Surprise visit in Hachenburg

“Isn’t that...?” When an unannounced guest entered the audience in the middle of a lecture on Central Banking and the Conduct of Monetary Policy, the roughly 60 students in the advanced study course at the Bundesbank’s University of Applied Sciences in Hachenburg could not believe their eyes. None other than Joachim Nagel had suddenly appeared in their midst and was now striding confidently towards the lecture hall podium. 

The President had definitely not entered the wrong room. Instead, he had availed himself of the opportunity to attend the lecture series held by his office manager Marco Leppin, who has held a teaching assignment at Hachenburg for a number of years. For the students, this surprise visit not only meant an unexpected in-person meeting with the President. With Joachim Nagel, they also had an expert on hand who was able to contribute to the topic of the lecture with first-hand experience that few others could match. After all, Leppin was in the process of explaining how the ECB Governing Council makes its monetary policy decisions. And who better than a member of the Governing Council to provide competent and authentic information on this topic?

And so Nagel embraced the opportunity to report in detail his experiences as a member of the Governing Council. He discussed the intense debates over the body’s decisions, the preparations behind these decisions and the considerations that guide the members of the ECB’s supreme decision-making body. This gave students an exclusive, living view into the topic of the lecture. 

However, the President had not only come to teach. He also wanted to learn. For example, he asked the students how they were finding life at Hachenburg Castle, how they were getting on with their studies and what experience they had gained so far. The students answered Nagel’s questions in detail, giving him a clear idea of day-to-day student life in Hachenburg. Of course, he was then also available for photos with the students. I’d be happy to, Nagel said, patiently obliging the photo requests. 

Nagel also attended an extensive photo session at his second surprise appearance of the day: handing out certificates to students who had come to stay at Hachenburg Castle during the International Week of Central Banking. Since Rector Erich Keller began the initiative twenty years ago, the University of Applied Sciences has maintained relationships with various foreign universities which, like Hachenburg, train the next generation of central bankers. The first such partner was the Graduate School of the People’s Bank of China (now PBC School of Finance, Tsinghua University, Beijing). The university has had a cooperation agreement with the school for many years, including lectures by full-time teachers in Beijing and visits to Hachenburg for Chinese students. Other renowned universities with close ties to central banking – the Warsaw School of Economics (SGH) in Poland and the University of Economics in Bratislava, Slovakia – have since joined the programme. In the past, there were also agreements with Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian universities, but these have lapsed for various reasons. The Ukrainian partner universities were forced to suspend operations due to the Russian war of aggression – in which some of their buildings have been destroyed. Cooperation with Russia ended following its 2014 annexation of Crimea, and cooperation with Belarus was terminated last year owing to its support of Russia’s war on Ukraine. 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s event was the first time in three years that foreign students had visited the university in person as part of the International Week of Central Banking Twenty students from Beijing and twelve each from Warsaw and Bratislava – along with their teachers – stayed in the Westerwald region for a week and participated in a series of lectures on central bank topics during this period. The fact that the Bundesbank President would also be present at the final dinner and would mix among the guests was not on the agenda, of course. The students were accordingly surprised and delighted, Keller said. Afterwards, participants spoke particularly positively about how friendly, approachable and unpretentious the President had come across. They were absolutely thrilled, Keller reported. And that’s really the best advertisement for the Bundesbank.

In the coming years, the university’s cooperation with foreign schools is to be expanded to include additional partners in Korea and Canada.