Introducing Karlheinz Toechterle, Austrian Federal Minister of Science and Research

bridges, vol. 33, May 2012 / People in the Spotlight
By Ursula Brustmann

One year ago, when a government cabinet reshuffle took place in Austria following the unexpected resignation (for health reasons) of the vice chancellor, Tyrolean-born Karlheinz Toechterle joined the Austrian government cabinet as the new Federal Minister of Science and Research. Toechterle was called to that position as an expert, hailing from the University of Innsbruck in his home state, where he had served as president of the university since 2007.

Karlheinz ToechterleKarlheinz Toechterle. Credit: BMWF / L. HilzensauerA professor of classical philology by training, Toechterle is well known for his preference for philosophical discourse. He prefers giving lectures to giving interviews. In this, he follows the old adage: “Think before you speak,” which certainly puts him well above the level of many other politicians. As Christoph Schwarz of the Austrian paper Die Presse puts it: “You can literally watch him thinking and – most remarkably – you will not get bored.”

Toechterle’s official CV lists the following research interests: Roman tragedy, especially Senecan tragedies; theory of literature; reception of classical antiquity; neo-Latin studies; theory and methodology of teaching ancient languages.

Knowing Toechterle’s research background and interests, one wonders how they might play into his role as minister at the helm of the Ministry of Science and Research. Asked about his political style and personal approach to challenges, Toechterle says: “It’s a mix of two contradictory attitudes: On the one hand, I energetically pursue my aims, since I am well aware of what is required for the further positive development of our universities and the higher education system in Austria; on the other hand, however, remaining calm is essential – I know that in a democracy a compromise between conflicting ideas and interests has to be found.”

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