Foto: Patrick Sommer | Pixabay

For the first time in its history, the Forum Hochschulräte (University Board of Trustees Forum) was held as a joint event with the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK). The online event, held on 11 March 2021, focused on cooperation between chairs of university boards of trustees and university leaders. The newsletter of the University Board of Trustees Forum now provides an overview of the results produced at the event entitled “Working collaboratively to advance the university”.

Friendship, complementarity or antagonism – what defines the cooperation between university leaders, boards of trustees and policymakers? This question was addressed by HRK President Peter-André Alt in his contribution, which focused on the aggregation, integration and filter function of university leaders.

The other two roles were covered by contributions from Dagmar Simon and Kai Gehring. The Chair of the Advisory Board of Paderborn University regards it as her board’s duty to know how the university “ticks” when it comes to strategic issues. The Spokesperson for Research and Universities of the Alliance 90/The Greens parliamentary group views boards of trustees as bridge builders beyond the campus, in interplay with all other stakeholders.

Acting as a stimulus, Frank Ziegele and Ulrich Müller from the CHE Centre for Higher Education gave ironic instructions on how to achieve worst practice, illustrating how university leaders and the board of trustees can be “sure to make a complete mess of their cooperation.” Based on their tongue-in-cheek advice, the two experts identified the neuralgic points in the interplay between the two bodies, which included the clarification of roles, the selection of members, and communication.

Three other contributions addressed the specific perspective and position adopted by boards of trustees. Hans-Gerd HusungChairperson of the University Council of Leipzig University, for instance, focused on the selection procedure for new leaders. Marina Frost, Chair of the University Council of TU Clausthal, recommended, among other things, holding joint meetings with the senate to exchange thoughts and ideas, enabling them to get a deeper insight into university issues. Birgit Fischer, Chair of the University Council of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum, emphasised the role of communication as the basis for constructive cooperation.

Two contributions from North Rhine-Westphalia represented the perspective of university leaders. Ulrich Radtke, Rector of the University of Duisburg-Essen, shared his thoughts on the conditions for success in selecting new university leaders. And Birgitt Riegraf, President of Paderborn University, presented nine practical tips for fruitful exchange between the two bodies.

The current issue 01/21 of the newsletter is complemented by an audio recording of the event’s panel discussion, as well as information on legal and personnel changes related to the topic of boards of trustees. To subscribe to the newsletter, click here. Link zur aktuellen Ausgabe des Newsletters.

The next University Board of Trustees Forum is expected to take place as a face-to-face event again in Berlin on 20 September 2021. For more information, visit:

About the University Board of Trustees Forum

The University Board of Trustees Forum is an initiative of Stifterverband and the Heinz Nixdorf Foundation in cooperation with the CHE Centre for Higher Education. The series of events is directed at all university board of trustees members from business, academia and society, offering them the possibility to exchange information and experience across institutions. Events take place twice a year. In addition to addressing the framework conditions and success factors of university board of trustees work, the events also explore current case studies and concrete challenges.