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13 January 2000

Significant Step Forward for University of Heidelberg Reform Project

No problems encountered as University of Heidelberg's "Impulse" project installs new SAP R/3 software – Rector Prof. Dr. Jürgen Siebke: "This means we have established a sound footing for achieving the ambitious goals the project has set itself" – Innovative concept for distributing financial resources now in place

The University of Heidelberg's "Impulse" project has successfully negotiated the latest stage in its ongoing realisation. Heidelberg is now the first university in Baden-Württemberg to have switched to a commercial-style accounting system. The transition was a smooth one; as of the beginning of this year the system is running on SAP R/3 software. "This means we have established a sound footing for achieving the ambitious goals the 'Impulse' project has set itself," commented Heidelberg's rector Prof. Dr. Jürgen Siebke. As vice-rector Prof. Dr. Heinz Horner emphasised, the project enables the University to consistently reapportion the responsibility for the use of financial resources down to the institute and department level, an innovative allocation approach in Germany's higher education landscape. "The 'Impulse' project has come in for a lot of attention all over the country," Chief Administrative Officer Romana Gräfin vom Hagen told journalists.

For the project team 3 January 2000 was a red-letter day. On the first Monday of the millennium the new SAP software R/3 had to prove its mettle. The fact that the transition from the old "cameralistic" accounting set-up to the new commercial-type system ran so smoothly was a source of especial gratification for Gräfin vom Hagen: "On Day One we were able to pay bills to the tune of DM 300,000, about 250 items in all." The new accounting system has got off to a flying start. Commercial accounting, says rector Siebke, creates "a sound basis for the kind of cost-against-output controlling system necessary to ensure that the best possible use is being made of the resources at the disposal of the University." Without this new system long-term goals of the reform project, like the creation of internal markets within the University, would not be feasible.

In the months prior to the start-up the R/3 software had to be adapted to the specific requirements of a university environment. "Here," said Gräfin vom Hagen, "we drew on the expertise of the OSS Consulting company, a medium-size enterprise based in the Rohrbach district of Heidelberg." Says Horst Ziegler, managing director of OSS Consulting: "From our point of view too the project is very much a pioneering venture," specifying that while the University exploits the SAP software to the full extent of its inherent capacity, including integration of the accounting system and procurement logistics, new tailor-made solutions have had to be devised for such specific tasks as reports on the deployment of external funding, "cameralistic" accountability requirements and decentralised procurement at institute level. "At various points we have substantially extended the standard SAP provider profile," said Ziegler. "This way we have contrived to implement a future-oriented solution at the University which can claim to be a model in the SAP world." The user can move around comfortably in the Internet, for example during ordering operations, while an SAP system is running in the background.

Project management for "Impulse" has been entrusted to the Mummert & Partner company and receives funding from the Volkswagen Foundation.

Why now?

Three factors were operative in the decision to convert the accounting system to coincide with the start of the new millennium. One practical reason was that the old system was simply not 2000-compatible; another was the fact that the switch to cost-against-output accounting is the basis for the introduction of global budgets at Baden-Württemberg's universities. But the main reason centres on the goals the Heidelberg reform project has set itself: "The thing is," says Gräfin vom Hagen, "we need a more precise identification of the cost of teaching and research as a basis both for internal decisions and accountability obligations to our funding sources." Wherever cost and performance at a university are measurable, instruments are to be installed for this purpose that have proved their worth in the business world. "But," stresses vice-rector Heinz Horner, "we haven't only been looking at the instruments, we've also devised and introduced a new concept for the distribution of the financial resources provided by the state of Baden-Württemberg."

New cost-covering model: institutes manage their own budgets and pay 3% into a central pool

The University of Heidelberg has now gone over to a system whereby the global budget is passed on to the individual departments. The various institutes of the University are even empowered to manage their own personnel budget, of course within the limits defined by civil service laws (in Germany professors are civil servants) and collective bargaining agreements. The consequential shift of financial responsibility "downward" is conditional on one overriding stipulation: for central tasks like the outfitting (financial and otherwise) of newly created professorial chairs the institutes have to pay resources into a central pool. As it stands, the Heidelberg model requires the various departments to pay 3% of their overall budgetary resources into this pool. "The revolutionary thing about this," says vice-rector Horner, "is that the distribution of resources is not a top-down centralised affair any more, it's more like the other way round; the institutes contribute resources from their budgets to power operations at the central level." This makes it possible to abolish the hitherto obligatory waiting period before new appointments are made. "That means more planning security for the institutes and spells the end of the contingency principle previously operative in connection with unforeseen staff vacancies."

SAP installation cost DM 2.3 million for products and services

Not counting personnel costs, the products and services needed for the change-over (hardware, software, consulting) totalled approx. DM 2.3 million. The state of Baden-Württemberg shouldered DM 750,000 of this, while DM 900,000 came from the Federal and State Governments' Higher Education Building Programmes.

Five full-time and 10 part-time members of the University administrative staff have been involved in the operation, as have 20 further staff members at the pilot institutes. A number of heads of department are also on the "Impulse" team.

Prospects for 2000

The team has set itself some ambitious goals for the coming year. First it intends to outline, discuss and put in place a model for an allocation of resources based on performance and objective needs. Initially this will only result in some minor redistributions as the resources situation for the institutes is very tight. But both vice-rector and CAO are unanimous: "We expect this to provide incentives."

Given that the project is of such cardinal importance for the future development of the University, a regular newsletter will be providing information on the ongoing state of play. The first edition has just been presented to the media; the newsletter is targeted primarily at members of the University staff.

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

The newsletter can be ordered free of charge from:
Pressestelle der Universität Heidelberg,
Postfach 105760,
D-69047 Heidelberg

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