The many thousands of higher education managers at German higher education institutions (HEIs) are practically invisible to higher education policymakers. A separate category of staff could change this, and pave the way for the further promotion, professionalisation and appreciation of their work. This is the conclusion reached by a publication issued by the KaWuM alliance project, in which CHE Executive Director Frank Ziegele is involved.

Higher education management at German HEIs is a professional field in its own right, located at the interface between research and university administration. However, since this field is not clearly assigned to a particular category of staff in higher education statistics, employees engaged in higher education management are assigned to either academic staff or non-academic staff on a case-by-case basis. It is estimated that there are between 7,000 and 25,000 people employed as higher education managers at HEIs in Germany, but it is difficult to be any more precise than that.

The Lessons Learned Paper developed within the project “KaWuM: Career paths and Qualification Requirements in Science and Higher Education Management” is in favour of classifying higher education managers in a dedicated category of staff. In this context, they should be listed separately in the existing status group of administrative and other staff.

CHE Executive Director Frank Ziegele welcomes such a call: “Every day, thousands of higher education managers work to ensure that researchers and administrators are able to collaborate efficiently at German HEIs. In the absence of a dedicated category of staff, however, they are practically invisible to higher education policymakers. As ‘elves of the higher education system’, policymakers see the positive results of science managers’ efforts, but not who is actually doing the work.”

It will only be possible to further advance the professionalisation of science management if the status of this group of professionals is clearly defined and consequently made more visible. To this end, the KaWuM alliance advocates measures such as targeted funding programmes at federal and state level.

The experts involved in the project believe that integrating higher education management into government control mechanisms would be another way for policymakers to make a difference. “It must go without saying that, e.g. science management is included in target agreements between the federal state and HEIs or in the Federal Government’s funding for excellence,” remarked Frank Ziegele, who also holds a professorship in Higher Education and Research Management at Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences. The state could also promote higher education management even further by making it easier for professionals to switch careers between science management at HEIs and ministerial management. A shared understanding of science management on both sides would be conducive to cooperation.

About the project:

At the core of “KaWuM: Career paths and Qualification Requirements in Science and Higher Education Management” is a large-scale empirical survey. The project, divided into three subprojects, is implemented in a network consisting of the German University of Administrative Sciences SpeyerHumboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the International University of Applied Sciences in Bad Honnef (IUBH). CHE contributes to the “Transfer” research group. The first two publications on networks and human resource development in science and higher education management were issued in 2020 and 2021, respectively. The third publication, containing higher education policy demands, was published in June 2022 and summarises the results of the “Higher Education Policy” transfer workshop, which was held on 8 March 2022.