28 September 1999

Heidelberg Still Critical of New University Law

Baden-Wuerttemberg's cabinet approves bill for new University Law – University of Heidelberg still has misgivings – Central features in conflict with academic identity

Baden-Wuerttemberg's new University Law has been finalised. In mid September Minister-President Erwin Teufel's cabinet unanimously approved the draft law. After passing the state parliament in the autumn it is planned to come into force in January 2000. According to science minister Klaus von Trotha it will enhance the efficiency and competitive standing of the state's institutions of higher education. Talking to the media von Trotha asserted that it would strengthen their standing as "a symbol of Baden-Wuerttemberg's scientific and economic significance all over the world." The University of Heidelberg still maintains its critical stance. Rector Prof. Dr. Juergen Siebke explained his reservations to members of Baden-Wuerttemberg's state parliament deputies, the most important points of contention being to the presence of a representative of the ministry on the planned new administrative Councils (Hochschulrat) for institutions of higher education, the selection and term of office of Deans, the Rector's period in office and the rigid stance on minimum sizes for Faculties.

In mid July there had been agreement between the Standing Conference of Baden-Wuerttemberg's rectors and the science minister on one of the points criticised by Heidelberg. In contrast to original intentions, all six external members of the new administrative Councils are now to be agreed on jointly by the ministry and the relevant higher-learning institution. The negotiations in July also brought agreement on the extension of the Councils' ambit, limitation of the authority wielded by the Council vis-à-vis the Rectorate and restriction of state powers of participation and supervision. Initially, there was also a consensus on making the participation of a ministry representative conditional on the approval of the higher education institutions and granting permission to universities (as opposed to other institutions of higher education) to call their new Councils "University Councils". The last two concessions have however been retracted by science minister von Trotha after objections from the Christian Democrat parliamentary group.

Following the cabinet resolution the University of Heidelberg still upholds its criticism of crucial points. Rector Siebke insisted that making the election of Deans conditional on proposal by the Rector flies in the face of the University's academic identity. The present solution, he said, "has worked perfectly well for 550 years." In Heidelberg's opinion extending the periods of office of Rector and Deans makes it all but impossible to persuade scholars from within the ranks of the University staff to agree to stand for these posts.

Please address any inquiries to:
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 542317

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