5 Minutes With: Prof. Katharina Boele-Woelki

Prof. Boele-Woelki, President of Bucerius Law School, on her work in the Netherlands and South Africa and her wish to inspire more women to enter academia

Forschung & Fakultät |

Start In Private International Law

Since 2015, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Katharina Boele-Woelki has been President of Bucerius Law School and at the same time a Claussen Simon Endowed Professor of Comparative Law. She began her legal career in private international law and also wrote her doctoral thesis in this area. She then worked at an institute for international law in The Hague before moving to Utrecht University.

Why Family Law?

Family law, one of her main areas of expertise, is about personal relationships, between couples, between parents and children. This is precisely what appeals to Prof. Boele-Woelki. Every phase of life, from birth to death, is also encompassed by the law. Family relationships also play a role in sociological, psychological or economic research, and this enables prolific interdisciplinary cooperation. 

In addition, there is comparative law. An arsenal of solutions from different legal systems is offered and the solution of one's own legal system can be critically questioned. Comparative law offers a wealth of inspiration.

Positions In The Netherlands And South Africa

Katharina Boele-Woelki has been in the Netherlands since 1980. First at an international institute, she moved from there to Utrecht University, where she became professor of comparative law, private international law and family law in 1995. She taught and researched there for 20 years.

In 2005, she was invited to attend an interdisciplinary family law conference in Cape Town, South Africa. Impressed by the diversity of the participants and the country, she received an invitation to fill an honorary professorship at the University of the Western Cape. There she got to know and love the country and its people. During this period, she also taught at the University of Pretoria. Today she holds the position of honorary professor at the University of Stellenbosch.

5 minutes with

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For More Women In Academia

The role of women in law is already large, but there is still room for improvement, according to Prof. Boele-Woelki. She advocates for this because "if we as women don't do it, who will?" Young women should also be enthusiastic about academia. Even better conditions need to be created so that they [women] can also reach higher positions.

She is also confident that in a few years there will be more female graduates at the Law School and thus more female doctoral students. Some of them will probably also enter into academia. However, she says, there is not only a lot of talent in the student body, but also a great next generation of academics who are already teaching. Katharina Boele-Woelki can well imagine that these talented lecturers will be given more opportunities to teach independently.

Three values Prof. Boele-Woelki believes students should leave law school with are: equality, equity and impartiality. With these values, they will be well on their way.