Gruppenfoto Verleihung der Auszeichnung Hochschulmanager des Jahres 2021 Prof. Dr. Sascha Spoun, Hochschulmanager des Jahres 2021, mit Mitgliedern der Expertenjury (v.l. Karim Khakzar, Norbert Sack, Sascha Spoun, Marion Schmidt, Martin Spiewak, Ulrich Radtke, Anja Steinbeck, Frank Ziegele; Foto: Kevin Fuchs für DIE ZEIT)

Professor Dr. Sascha Spoun, President of the Leuphana University Lüneburg, is “University Manager of the Year 2021”. With this award, the weekly newspaper DIE ZEIT and the CHE Centre for Higher Education honour leaders of higher education institutions (HEIs) in Germany who have shaped the development of their university in a special way and initiated innovative change processes.

The economist Professor Dr. Sascha Spoun has led the Leuphana University Lüneburg as president since 2006. On taking office, Spoun established a study and university model in Lüneburg that was innovative for Germany. The model features a College for Bachelor students, a Graduate School for Master and doctoral students, and a Professional School for continuing education. Four transdisciplinary science and research priorities in the fields of education, culture, sustainability, and management and entrepreneurship emerged from the faculties.

According to the jury, the Leuphana University Lüneburg has undergone one of the most remarkable degrees of change in the German academic landscape. As the jury stated: “The German higher education landscape needs exceptional personalities whose visions inspire the creation of totally new ideas. That’s exactly the kind of person Sascha Spoun is. Together with his team, he has displayed enormous personal commitment in turning his vision of higher education into a successful model.” The jury continued: “Thanks to Sascha Spoun’s foresight, Leuphana has been a pioneer in several developments, such as lifelong learning through the creation of a Professional School or the establishment of an interdisciplinary, motivating introductory phase that sparks enthusiasm among first-year students. The same applies to the issue of sustainability, which is also a top priority in higher education. Spoun established sustainability as a distinguishing feature of the university long before most other HEIs.”

In her laudation, Professor Dr.-Ing. Dr. Sabine Kunst, President of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, stressed: “Venturing into new terrain is ingrained in Sascha Spoun’s DNA. Spoun came with entirely new ideas and with a vision of a university that puts teaching centre stage. In his leadership role, he seeks to generate enthusiasm for shared goals, unleashing motivation and creativity in the process. All this requires trust, as well as agile and flexible structures, which have been established in Lüneburg.”

Besides Professor Dr. Sascha Spoun, the following managers were nominated for the award:
Professor Dr. Gabriele Gien, President of the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt
Professor Dr. Martin Leitner, President of Munich University of Applied Sciences
Professor Dr. Ingeborg Schramm-Wölk, President of Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences
Professor Dr. Walter Schober, President of Technische Hochschule Ingolstadt

A short portrait of each nominee is available here

“All of the nominees demonstrate outstanding team skills in their understanding of leadership. It appears that successful leadership and advancement of a university means ensuring that the different members are on board when working towards a goal. All the nominees have managed this superbly, even in difficult phases. In their own individual ways, each nominee has advanced their university impressively, with great personal commitment, and broad and open communication,” stated Professor Dr. Frank Ziegele, Executive Director of CHE and a member of the jury.

Information about the selection procedure

The nominees for the “University Manager of the Year 2021” award were selected in a multi-stage process. HEIs exhibiting especially strong positive development dynamics were identified by carrying out a data-based preselection. In the second selection stage, all university managers identified in the preselection process were questioned about their understanding of leadership. Covering an additional perspective, executive-level colleagues and the chairs of the relevant university councils were asked about their university management’s leadership performance and teamwork. This year, particular attention was given to crisis management during the Covid-19 pandemic and the management team’s handling of the crisis.

The entire results provided the basis for the jury of ten recognised experts to decide on the nomination of the five finalists and to select the University Manager of the Year 2021.

Information about the University Manager of the Year project