My Alma mater – BTU Cottbus in Germany

For my regular readers – this is a non-technical, non-work related post about my university BTU Cottbus and some current events related to it. I consider it important to publicly share my personal opinion on the matters to support my former professors, teachers, classmates and friends. This post is not endorsed by Microsoft and represents my private opinion only. -- Kirill

I consider myself fortunate to have studied at and graduated from the Brandenburg University of Technology (hereafter affectionally referred to as BTU) in Cottbus, Germany.


It is a great university that welcomed me as an international student from Ukraine and provided me with a solid, high quality education.

I studied computer science. The courses were great, modern, deeply technical and providing with the necessary foundations as well as practical applications. I’ve learned about structural programming (C++), object oriented programming (Java, .NET), functional programming (Haskell), pure computer science (algorithms, data structures, computability, turing machines, automata, languages), compilers (grammars, parsers, optimizers, semantics, lambda calculus), graphics, databases, OS fundamentals (threading, synchronization) and many many other things. I wrote an operating system (a toy one, but it booted and had threads!), a 3D fractal landscape generator in Haskell with OpenGL (anybody know what the $= operator means?), an AI (alpha-beta pruning) game engine in Prolog, a VPRO processor model in VHDL with an assembler and an interpreter, a garbage pickup schedule database in PHP and IBM DB2, and last, but not least, a structured editor for a subset of C#.

The teachers and professors were very appproachable, loved their work, stayed late to help explain things, and often enjoyed a beer or two together with the students after lectures. The atmosphere was great.

The facilities were good too, new buildings, projectors, computers, free internet, free web hosting, free source control, etc. Check out the new library for example:


The university also provides students with valuable connections to start their future career. Through such a university-industry connection I found two wonderful summer internships with Microsoft in Redmond. After I’ve finished my thesis and graduated, I started fulltime here at Microsoft, which I consider is a great beginning that opens wide opportunities in life. I was interested in programming languages, editors and developer tools and found the best place to work on it!

At the university, I’ve gained a lot of valuable professional and personal connections, found friends, learned new things, experienced life. The excellent German course for international students helped me learn German reasonably well in 6 months.

To me, BTU is a university that provides deep and solid foundations to students of many disciplines – math, physics, computer science. It creates professionals who one day will grow up to become system changers and improve the world around them by creative thinking and applying what they’ve learned.

And now they want to close this university as it exists today.

There are plans and proposals from the ministry to dissolve BTU and the neighboring Hochschule Lausitz (another college in Brandenburg), and create a new university/college that is more targeted for environment/energy. As part of this, there are recommendations to close or severely trim the Department of Mathematics, Physics and join/trim the Departments of Computer Science and otherwise deprioritize math/computer science.

Many of my friends among computer science teachers, professors and former classmates oppose this initiative, instead voting for preserving both colleges, and improving ties and collaboration between them, without sacrificing our deep specialization in math, physics and computer science. There is a lot of existing value that has accumulated in the current BTU structure over the years, it would be unwise to destroy all of it, throw away all the experience, fire (some? most?) teachers and professors and start from scratch.

I would like to join and support this movement because I deeply believe that universities should not deprioritize fundamental things like math and computer science – we need to grow new generations of professionals who didn’t learn to code by “Teach yourself ThisYearsTechnologyX in 24 hours” kind of books.

It is also especially important to attract and support women in math, physics and computer science, the way the ratio is skewed towards men nowadays is I think a real problem. And how do we attract more girls and boys to computer science, by closing well-established computer science departments and universities? Why fix what aint broken? Why be destructive before being constructive?

Universities are a cradle of hope for the progress of our civilization, this is where we grow our best and brightest who will grow up and solve problems. We should do everything we can to foster and support them.



An meine Freunde, Alumni, Professoren, Mitarbeiter und Studierende der BTU, sowohl auch andere, die sich beteiligt fühlen – bitte äußern auch Sie Ihre Meinung zu diesem wichtigen Thema. Dieser Link erhält schon viele Berichte und Statements, aber nur wenn es viel mehr Stimmen gibt, die sich zur BTU bekennen, wird das Ministerium hoffentlich zuhören.

-- Dipl.-Inf. Kirill Osenkov, Microsoft (from Redmond, WA, USA)