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30 November 2001

Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff Names the Priorities for the New Rectorate

"Declaration of intent" very favourably received by the University Senate on 20 November 2001

Ten days after the presentation to the Senate of the University of Heidelberg of the new Rectorate for the coming years (2001-2004), Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff has now made this "declaration of intent" available to the public (see text following). The reception accorded by the Senate to his objectives was extremely favourable.

Priority objectives for the coming years

In the coming years, competition at national and international level for the best minds, for resources and the achievement of outstanding excellence in research and teaching will be the key factor deciding where universities stand and how their Faculties and institutions measure up. As a traditional seat of learning and research, the University of Heidelberg, with its full range of scientific, arts and medical subjects, is well prepared for this challenge. But if it is to weather such keen competition successfully, it also needs to initiate a broad, and in some cases profound, process of modernisation and maintain its unflagging efforts to enhance its international standing. In some instances there are also a number of clear shortcomings that need to be remedied as quickly as possible. In this competitive landscape the University is determined to live up to its motto "semper apertus" and will accordingly continue to engage with the problems, controversies and developments identifiable in present-day society. For the years 2001 to 2004 the Rectorate has set itself the following priority objectives in the bid to satisfy these requirements.

  1. In research, the existing pockets of excellence need both to sensibly increase in number and also to extend in scope. The Rectorate's aim is to identify and promote excellence at an early stage. Research networks and research centres must be encouraged, notably in the humanities.
  2. In the framework of the new budgeting model, the Rectorate will reward the successful procurement of external funds and provide administrative support for applications to this end. Special attention needs to be devoted to research promotion opportunities provided by the European Commission, a source that has been largely neglected hitherto. Greater use is to be made of overheads from existing projects in drawing on professional support for the conduct of the intricate application procedure involved. External funding for research projects in the humanities should be given greater prominence alongside the existing forms of research promotion.
  3. In teaching, the introduction and design of B.A. and M.A. courses is of central importance. The first objective here is to inquire into the possibility and necessity of integrating B.A. options into existing courses in a way that makes sense in terms of both study content and organisation. Additional Master's degree options are primarily suited for (post-) graduate courses and new application-oriented courses. They are to be designed as generators of excellence and as such will be restricted to students with the highest academic qualifications. A clear distinction needs to be made between these and other higher-level courses leading in future to a Diplom degree. Key issues in this connection are the harmonisation of study contents within individual courses, acceptance of these degrees by future employers and comparability with degrees in other European and non-European countries. Above-average results in a Master's degree can lead on to a doctorate. Further consideration is required on the extent to which existing experience with Heidelberg's Graduiertenkollegs (time-limited graduate/postgraduate research groups funded by the German Research Council) can be drawn upon for the general introduction of doctoral studies.
  4. A further central concern on the teaching side will be greater emphasis on teaching activity itself. A first step in this direction will be the assessment of teaching performance via evaluation, followed by the reflection of these results in the allocation of resources (e.g. in the negotiable part of the budgeting model). Rewards for good teaching are a priority here. There will be systematic support from the Rectorate (more specifically, from the vice-rector for teaching) for the study deans and prominent foregrounding of their functions. The Rectorate wishes to encourage the Faculties to achieve exemplary standards of excellence in areas of teaching suited to the attainment of this objective.
  5. Alongside the unchanging commitment to the significance of German as a medium of scholarly and scientific exchange, the necessity for greater internationalisation means first of all that Heidelberg must provide more in the way of workshops, summer courses and practically oriented seminars conducted in English. In disciplines where it makes sense to do so and the requisite capacities exist, there will also be new courses conducted in English only and/or classes in English integrated into existing courses. Courses in German are to be obligatory for international students attending the University of Heidelberg.
  6. More — and more intensive — partnerships are needed with Eastern European, Asian and North and South American universities ("Heidelberg — The Gateway to Europe"). Ventures associated with this objective are the planning and introduction of a European Studies course, the American Studies project and a graduate course run by economists for upcoming political and economic leaders, notably in developing and threshold countries. Opening a University House in another country can be the first step towards possible teaching exports.
  7. Professionalisation in line with the new University Law makes it necessary to overhaul Faculty structures, either totally or internally. This is just as true of the sciences and humanities as it is for medicine (see 9). Such restructuring must not be restricted to a formal, purely legal reorganisation. The task of the Rectorate will be to ensure that, in a gradual process, individual subjects can grow closer together while at the same time preserving their specific diversity.
  8. Attempts by the larger Faculties to take the professionalisation of their management structures further still can count on vigorous support from the Rectorate. At Faculty level this may lead to a reallocation of resources.
  9. The Faculties of Medicine at Heidelberg and Mannheim have agreed to amalgamate in one Faculty. While retaining their local structures, they will develop a unified design for teaching, research and academic self-administration and also unified scientific priorities. Strategic decisions pertaining to specialisation profiles for professorships, scientific cooperation and priority research will be taken in the new joint Faculty. The Rectorate expects a similar rapprochement between the University hospitals. The kind of structural changes required for this can only be decided on after submittal of the report announced for early 2002 by the Science Council. The Mannheim University Hospital Complex will be maintained at all events.
  10. The new budgeting model has found broad assent in the Senate and the University Council and will now be implemented with the requisite despatch. It is, however, essential to ensure that the model and the consequences it involves are accepted by those affected by it. The two-year trial phase serves the further development and fine-honing of the model. The scope available to the University will be used to provide visible rewards for ideas and successful implementation. This involves the necessity for detailed evaluation over time, which in its turn requires an information management system integrated into the existing monitoring and controlling functions and (a) providing reliable information, (b) lowering information procurement effort and (c) facilitating concentration on research and teaching. The implementation of such a system in the framework of the IMPULSE project will be a further priority concern of the present Rectorate. The original aims of the IMPULSE project and the complete conversion of resource management in line with business administration principles will be pursued unchanged and with tenacity.
  11. It is quite clear that modernisation and internationalisation must come from the departments and Faculties themselves. The structure and development plans elaborated at those levels will be the basis for concretisation and materialisation at University level. The central administrative bodies of the University will concentrate on stimulating such processes. If necessary, however, they will take the initiation of such processes into their own hands. To this end there will be direct encounters between the Rectorate and the actors involved in research and teaching at Faculty and department level. The central University bodies reserve the right to establish and assert priorities in the structure and development plans of the Faculties and academic/scientific institutions. In some cases this may lead to deviations from the conceptions and preferences put forward by Faculties and institutions.
  12. The relationship between the University and political bodies and institutions at all levels needs to be expanded and optimised.

Please address any inquiries to:
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317
michael.schwarz@rektorat.uni-heidelberg.de
http://www.uni-heidelberg.de/presse/index.html


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Updated: 18.12.2001

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