When you started in 1994 with CHE the guiding idea was ‘the unbound university’. In what way and to which degree has the university in Germany been able to liberate itself from its shackles? Isn’t she still bound by many regulations, when you campare with for instance the Netherlands?
In several areas, it is even more shackled by the state than in the Netherlands. One example of this is ownership of real estate.
But I have always understood the idea of the “university unbound” as freedom from the mental blocks in higher education institutions (HEIs). In this respect, we have made a gigantic leap forward! HEIs are no longer immobile monoliths but innovative and creative organizations.
In which areas of your ambitions for German HE are the steps forward remarkable since then? Where have you met with the most disappointment in your endeavors to unbound HE?
Governance structures, development of new curricula, and the Excellence Initiative in research are very well done, but program accreditation is highly reglemented.
Creating transparancy was one of the fundamental goals of the develoment of the CHE from the beginning. Where has this been most succesful and where in Europe and in Germany itself is HE-clarity still least developed and therefore most hungry for improvement?
In Germany, there is now a very high level of transparency in relation to research and teaching performance in individual faculties. At HEIs, this transparency even extends to individual professorships.
With the CHE ExcellenceRanking, we are starting to overcome borders and to become an active part of the European ranking. This must continue so that the Shanghai Jiao Tong and Times Higher Education rankings are not setting the (wrong) standards.
‘The future role of universities’ – what is the task of HE? How can we integrate the research performance and the educational performance with the other important social responsibilities of HE? This is the question that is the key point of the seminar in Berlin where you say goodbye to CHE. We would like to publish your own, personal answer to this.
In my view, HEIs have a social responsibility to find answers for the question of our times, be it climate change, demographic development or the health system, to name just three topics. HEIs are best suited to find solutions for these problems as they combine different disciplines and these problems need interdisciplinary solutions. Cooperation between the disciplines must therefore be strengthened.
A lot of attention has been drawn by the ‘ExzellenzInitiative’ of your federal government in Berlin. Is this richly endowed initiative an example of effective HE- policymaking or do you have some scepticism in this regard?
In Germany, the Excellenz Initiative has sparked an enormous wave of energy and new ideas for research. This cannot be welcomed positively enough! On the other hand, universities also have to teach, something which is ignored by the Excellenz Initiative.
The ExcellenceRanking is a new adventure for the CHE. It looks more than ever towards the European world of HE. What do you see as its longterm perspective and the opportunities these will give to this new instrument for transparency?
Mobility is increasing in the European university landscape. At the same time, universities are justified in keeping their cultural identities and investing in their profiles. This must be made transparent! The ExcellenceRanking is one way of achieving this transparency.
Your personal profile in the CHE- site tells me that you love sailing. What have you learned on board, on the waves, that has become in the past 14 years the most important experience for your work at the CHE and in the world of HE?
Sailing is an activity that requires lots of different pieces of information to be processed quickly: wind speed, waves and, in races, what the competition is doing. Everything changes and develops constantly. The crew must also cooperate to reach a joint goal.
University reform is similar as many factors are on the move, while those involved, such as politicians, rectors or professors, are changing their behaviour. Attitudes as well as laws are changing. And finally, the whole CHE team had to be carried along and motivated over and again.
Lees ook de analyse van het werk van Müller-Böling en van de ontwikkeling van het CHE, incusief het symposium in Berlijn bij zijn afscheid, voor ScienceGuide geschreven door de oud-voorzitter van de Raad van Advies van het Duitse instituut, prof. Ferdinand Mertens.