On 19 June 2001 the Rector of the University of Heidelberg, Prof. Dr. Jürgen Siebke, presented his Review of the Academic Year (1 April 2000 to 31 March 2001) to the Senate. His main themes were new perspectives in higher education policy and major developments at the University in the period under review.
Disbanding of Administrative Council regrettable
Siebke: "The major amendments to the University Law of Baden-Württemberg that came into force on 1 January 2001 have necessitated a number of measures implemented in the course of the academic year 2000/2001. Among them are the disbandment of the Greater Senate, whose functions have been taken over by the Senate, and the disbandment of the Administrative Council, whose major tasks have been allocated to the Rectorate (some of them to the Senate). In the University's eyes, the Administrative Council had proved its worth as a central body in the administrative system and its disappearance is regrettable.
The universities of Baden-Württemberg now have a new administrative body in the form of the University Council. In most cases, it is made up of internal and external members, though some universities have the option of constituting a University Council with external members only. The University of Heidelberg has a mixed-membership University Council.
University Council: separation of powers not always ideally defined
The new University Law promises clear and efficient decision-making structures. The operative leadership of the University-and hence the responsibility for planning and resource allocation-lies with the Rectorate. The Senate takes decisions on academic matters. As a strategic steering body, the University Council is concerned with the mid- and long-term development of the University and its specific profile. At the same time it acts as a supervisory body for the Rectorate. In detail, however, the separation of these powers and competencies is not always ideally well-defined, notably the role of the University Council in connection with job descriptions for professorial posts and the drafting of study and exam regulations.
More uniform requirement levels and less room to manoeuvre
The Baden-Württemberg University Reform promises greater autonomy for the universities. From now on, study and exam regulations do not have to be approved by the Higher Education Ministry. There is however a new ordinance laying down a binding and detailed framework for Diplom and Magister courses. It not only determines the standard term of study but also stipulates presence at the university of between 15 and 20 hours a week, a maximum of 32 exams, and a maximum of 6 months for finals theses. The idea is to ensure that students of average ability devoting sufficient time to their studies can indeed complete their courses within the standard term of study laid down. Laudable as this is in theory, the resulting uniformity of requirements and the limits imposed on the departments' room to manoeuvre is in clear contradiction to the call for greater competitiveness between the universities. This is especially true in connection with the establishment of new, innovative, and frequently interdisciplinary courses.
State allocation model puts traditional universities at a disadvantage
The introduction of lump-sum budgets conceded to Heidelberg University as early as 1998 was realised for all the universities in Baden-Württemberg as of the state budget of 2000/2001. At the same time a system of performance and output oriented resource allocation was elaborated, leading to a redistribution of resources from state funds among the universities. In the year 2000 this would have resulted in a loss of almost 1.3 million marks for Heidelberg University over and against the previous year, were it not for the agreement to defer this loss in the first year the new system came into force. This loss is largely due to a decline in external resources. But the relatively high degree of student migration folowing the introduction of fees for long-time students also makes itself felt here. In general it is fair to say that the new allocation model puts traditional universities at a disadvantage over and against technical universities and smaller universities.
New control instruments: major problems
The administrative reform drive at state level involves the introduction of a unit-of-output costing system to replace the traditional annualised and itemised public-service-style accounting system in force hitherto. The universities are also affected by this. The introduction of a performance and output oriented accounting system is a central part of the IMPULSE project in the process of implementation at the University of Heidelberg. The incompatibility of the two systems (itemisation and strict control on the one hand, business management principles on the other) have caused major problems in the ongoing realisation of the project. It is to be hoped that negotiations with the Finance Ministry and the Higher Education Ministry will lead to a practicable solution.
Evaluation: coordination necessary
Higher education reform has also brought the establishment of a new state evaluation agency whose job it is to conduct regular cross-university evaluations of the quality of research and teaching. The results of these evaluations will have repercussions on funding for the universities. It is foreseeable that considerable university resources will have to be expended on the conduct of such evaluations and it is much to be hoped that there will be adequate coordination between the various evaluation measures." (Siebke)
Major developments at the University: Faculties reconstituted
One of the major developments in the year under review is the reconstitution of Faculties, which has to be completed by 31 March 2002:
Siebke: "The discussion on the reconstitution of the Faculties in the sphere of the natural sciences is over. Here the Faculties of Earth Sciences and Pharmacy are affected; in both cases the solution favoured is for these two Faculties to be affiliated to other existing Faculties. The Faculty of Earth Sciences has expressed its preference for an affiliation to the Faculty of Chemistry, while the Faculty of Pharmacy will be split between two other Faculties, the Faculty of Biology and the Faculty of Chemistry and Earth Sciences.
In the sphere of the humanities and social sciences, the situation is much more complex. While three of the Faculties (Theology, Law, Modern Languages) are not affected by the reconstitution, the others are indirectly hit by the domino effect resulting from the fact that the Faculty of Economics has only 14 professors at the moment, which puts it below the statutory minimum. Discussion on this point is still under way. The Rectorate has repeatedly attempted to indicate that the necessity for reconstitution also represents a new opportunity and should not merely be seen as negative. It has also proposed two possible solutions. While it is naturally difficult to achieve a consensus with so many different parties involved, a decision will have to be taken by the end of the summer semester.
So-called Solution A proposes the formation of larger Faculties by amalgamating the Faculty of Philosophy and History with that of Oriental and Classical Studies and by integrating the Faculty of Economics into the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences.
Solution B is an attempt to link the preservation of smaller Faculties with a higher degree of homogeneity. This model proposes forming a Faculty with some 25 professors uniting sociology, political science and economics. The loss of political science incurred by the Faculty of Philosophy and History would be offset by the inclusion of modern Asian studies in that Faculty, meaning that the organic structures obtaining in the Faculty of Oriental and Classical Studies would only be marginally affected.
Structure and development planning
During the winter semester 2001/2001 the Faculties drafted their structure and development plans and submitted them to the University Council for discussion. By the end of 2001 these plans are to be forwarded to the Ministry of Higher Education in the form of a general Structure and Development Plan for the University of Heidelberg. Approval by the Ministry would then restore the University's autonomy in deciding what happens to professorial posts that become vacant.
With a large number of professorial posts about to become vacant for age reasons, the Faculties have the opportunity of reviewing their own profiles and possibly redefining them to some extent. This is bedevilled by the fact that it is not always possible to predict the way subjects or disciplines are going to develop in future. Hence the discussion in the summer semester will revolve around ways of capitalising on opportunities for innovation while at the same time preserving structures that have proved their worth.
In quantitative terms forecasts are also more difficult than might be supposed. Despite scrupulous capturing of the relevant data, accurate predictions about long-term quantitative developments, comparisons with other universities and prognoses about student numbers are notoriously difficult to achieve and are frequently anything but reliable.
In conclusion, it can be safely said that an overall structural adaptation will only be possible if Faculties sees themselves not as fragmented units within the University but as part of a whole. Within the narrow limits imposed, there can only be relief for departments suffering from lack of staff and new opportunities for research with high future potential if disciplines whose situation has changed dramatically in terms both of research and teaching do not take a dog-in-the-manger attitude but at least countenance the possibility of rededication in certain cases. Only in this way can the University present itself as an institution worthy of the motto 'A Tradition for the Future'." (Siebke)
Please address any inquiries to:
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317