28 June 1999

Rector Siebke Reviews Major Developments of the Past Year

"Misgivings" about Baden-Wuerttemberg's proposed amendments to its University Law

"The amendments to the University Law proposed by the state government of Baden-Wuerttemberg have been a major cause for concern at the University of Heidelberg over the last six months," said Heidelberg's rector Prof. Dr. Juergen Siebke during the presentation of his Official Report to the Greater Senate on the developments at the University in 1998/1999. If the law goes through as it stands at the moment, it will spell the end of the Greater Senate as a University body. "It's unfortunate that when research minister von Trotha met the Senate to discuss the proposed amendments he showed no willingness to compromise on any of the points at issue. It's difficult to see why structures that have proved their worth in Heidelberg should be abolished."

Siebke's criticism of the amendments concentrate on the top-level changes they envisage. The Greater Senate and the Administrative Council are to be abolished. In place of these two bodies, which had representatives from all levels of the University, the Rectorate and the Senate are to be given extended powers, while a new body – the University Council – is to be constituted. In its planned form it would be made up of 13 members, including six from outside the University, but would have no across-the-board representation.

Rectorate and Senate consider the abolition of the Administrative Council to be a mistake. In the past this body has proved to be a valuable source of constructive criticism. It will also be difficult to find six external members for the University Council with the necessary time on their hands to steep themselves in the concerns of the University to an adequate extent.

Another problem identified by Professor Siebke is the possibility of political influence being exerted by the new University Council: four of the external members are to be appointed by the state Ministry of Higher Education and Research.

In future the Rector's term of office is to be extended from its present four years to six years. Siebke feels that this will make it unattractive for many professors. A six-year term would mean a real risk of losing touch altogether with the latest developments in their respective subject. He is also unhappy about the idea of extending eligibility for the office of Rector to candidates from outside the University.

Siebke further criticises the idea of having full-time deans with four-year terms of office instead of the present two-year stint. "It will be hard to find professors willing to take on a job that effectively excludes them from research and teaching for four whole years." Another problem is the plan to have Faculty deans elected solely from candidates proposed by the Rector.

Other topics

External funding to the tune of DM 136 million in the past year is assessed by the Rector as "an indication of the University's success in the research field." Though somewhat lower than the total in the year before it is "still gratifying." With nine of the Long-Term Collaborative Research Projects (Sonderforschungsbereiche) funded by Germany's Research Council to its name, the University is up among the front runners in the country as a whole. It also has 17 German Research Council-funded Time-limited Graduate Research Groups (Graduiertenkollegs), the highest number at any German university.

Fees for exceeding study time-limits bring drop in student figures

Since the winter term 1998/1999 students at Baden-Wuerttemberg's universities have to pay fees of DM 1,000 per term if they exceed the new restriction of study times (regulation study period for a given subject, plus four semesters). This is one of the major reasons for the drop in the number of students at the University to 24,820 in the winter term (98/99). This figure is 9% lower than in the winter term last year (27,346). Prof. Siebke pointed out that foreign students and students in subjects with entry restrictions (Numerus Clausus) have not been affected by this development. The drop is thus largely in non-restricted-entry subjects chosen by students who have completed one course of study and wish to remain enrolled at the University without actively participating. "This means that the spate of new exmatriculations does not bring much actual relief in the sense of cutting down the number of people actually attending classes, but it does at least clean up the statistics and make them more meaningful for the future."

Decentralised resource responsibility making progress

The "Impulse" project (formerly "Volkswagen Foundation project") designed to strengthen the decentralisation of resource management at the University is "taking shape thanks to concrete activities" (Siebke). The central idea is improve the integration of central and decentralised administration with a view to concentrating the material, space and personnel available to the University on what is after all its "core business": the actual research and teaching going on in the departments. SAP's R-3 system has now been installed as the new finance software.

Number of budgetary items drastically reduced

The University's budget structure has changed substantially over and against the previous year. In the framework of the "Impulse" project the number of budgetary items has been reduced from the former 150 to 10 on the expenditure and 7 on the receipts side. These are now mutually transferable. This means that the Administrative Council is freed of "cameralistic" restraints in distributing resources. A further asset is the new flexibility in the handling and trade-off of job vacancies in the sub-professorial and non-academic sectors.

The complete version of the Rector's Official Report is obtainable (in German only) from the Press Office of the University.

For further information please contact:
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Universitaet Heidelberg
Pressesprecher/Public Information Officer
Postfach 105760
D-69047 Heidelberg

phone +49 6221 542310, fax +49 6221 542317
e-mail: michael.schwarz@rektorat.uni-heidelberg.de

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