Information often trickles into the home office slowly. Even if it is as important as the upcoming reform of the Bavarian Higher Education Act. Not all professors and lecturers at the two Munich universities of excellence seem to be aware of the status of developments. You and the administrative staff have been busy for weeks preparing for the winter semester including online teaching. Lectures at the Ludwig Maximilians University (LMU) and the Technical University (TU) begin in November.
Meanwhile, they were not inactive elsewhere: on Wednesday last week there was an expert hearing in the Bavarian state parliament on the planned reform of university law. According to inquiries from various faculties, one hears about it only from the media. This may also be due to the fact that the hygiene rules at universities barely allow an exchange about it, for example at a coffee machine. Those who can avoid contact. Key issues papers are not passed on either.
Such a paper on reform was mentioned again and again at the hearing. Even of the invited experts, only a few knew its content. It can now be found on the website of the Ministry of Science. It is 21 pages long and very detailed. The new law should be a “signal for a new departure” with the “model of the greatest possible freedom”, can be read there, for example, often also the word “personal responsibility” for example with regard to self-determination and development. To finance this, the universities should be given a “comprehensive fee collection option”, for example for non-EU foreigners, and thus an incentive to “fundraise” and start up companies.
I thought it was at most a three-page paper, admits a research associate at LMU who does not want to admit his statements by name. He is rather critical of President Bernd Huber. “I think they want the big hit,” he says. That means, among other things, much more power for the university management, which restricted the increased say in the various bodies. “I find benevolent contradiction important – from the professor to the student.”
“I don’t think everyone is aware of what’s coming,” says Margit Weber, canon lawyer and LMU women’s representative for 14 years. In this role, Weber sat as an expert at the hearing in the state parliament. A week later, she is dismayed that the paper only “insufficiently addresses” equality. It must be felt in all areas, she says, not just an appeal is enough. “In Bavaria we have had around 50 percent female students for 30 years, and at LMU even 60 percent.” Overall, there are only 20 percent women professors, one president and only a few vice-presidents. She has long advocated equal appointments in praesidia. Equality must be clearly specified in the new higher education law as an overriding task and as a guiding principle, because that’s the only way something can move, she says. “That would make Munich and Bavaria much more attractive.” For companies, success has long depended on whether they have mixed teams. “How do we want to attract top women from all over the world?”
A professor from her house, whose name should also not appear here, fears a further dismantling of “collegial leadership” at the universities. He also thinks of company structures. “University presidents are made as powerful today as they were at VW under Martin Winterkorn, which led to the emissions scandal at the time.” Today, however, power is more likely to be shared in successful companies. He feels growing frustration among his colleagues because changes have always been in the same direction so far.
No scientist today can have a sufficient overview of research in his field alone. The best are therefore the humble ones who rely on the opinion of their colleagues. Unfortunately, the office of the president all too often attracts people who have a thirst for recognition and are not among the best scientists. In more than 20 years as a professor, he himself was never asked by the management or administration of the university or the ministry about what could improve his research and teaching.
It is unclear whether LMU President Bernd Huber was asked for advice. Among other things, he says that the LMU is very open to university reform in Bavaria and is very interested in being constructively involved in the process. Important guiding principles are more autonomy, more dynamism and more differentiation so that the different universities can develop their full potential. There are of course still many unanswered questions to be discussed in the concrete form of the reform.
Thomas Hofmann, who has been President of the Technical University of Munich for a year, would be happy to contribute his expertise, he says in a telephone conversation. But he has not yet been asked. Even his predecessor Wolfgang Herrmann, who gave verbose answers at the state parliament hearing, had no creative role in the context, says Hofmann. One of the things that is important to him is to speed up the appointment process. Today’s practice, which often takes a year, is completely inefficient, he says. His focus is on lifelong learning, which also includes adult students, and the support of spin-offs, as the TU is already doing.
Regarding the concern of Verdi regional department head Christiane Glas-Kinateder that fixed-term employment contracts would increase due to the conversion of the universities into corporations, as the key issues paper provides, Hofmann replies: “It takes brain circulation.” But you have to be careful that there are not too many temporary relationships. Overall, Hofmann is calling for the universities to have significantly more room for maneuver.
“The perspective of the university management is not necessarily the perspective of all university members,” says Maximilian Frank, TU student and active spokesman for the Bavarian State ASten Conference. It should not be decided only from above. A legal framework must be given to greater personal responsibility. We see ourselves as a corrective, he says. In principle, committees are not a design obstacle.