What is all this about

All around the world new demands are placed on universities to be accountable, demonstrate impact, respond to societal needs and contribute to economic growth. Universities need to have a clear understanding of new trends in their regional, national and global environments and adapt their internal governance to respond in dynamic ways.

In the Netherlands and in Germany, but also in Austria and Switzerland, higher education has been undergoing tremendous reforms in the last couple of years.  Policy-makers and university leaders are eager to enhance capacity at system and institutional levels for strong regional and global innovation, critical for the impact that higher education can make on economic growth and societal developments.

We build on previous initiatives with deans and academic leaders developed by the Universität des Saarlandes and a former European network of deans. The event is conceived as the first step of a future international initiative for deans and academic managers.  The concept for this initiative will be discussed in Maastricht.


March 30, 2015: The preparation of the Maastricht Talks (April 10 – 12) are on the way. The list of participants is completed, the program is great and we are really enthusiastic about this event.

We will have a high level conversations between policy-makers  and university leaders, searching for ways to continue the process of  modernizing higher education governance. We will have a particular focus on deans of faculties: Even though sometimes overlooked and underestimated, they play a key role in this process. One goal of this meeting is to enhance the understanding of the systems from The Netherlands and from Germany, to discuss challenges, with a view to share lessons learnt.

Maastricht Talks: April 10-12, 2015

High Level Dialogue Between The Netherlands And Germany: Leading And Managing Change In Higher Education

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Key note speakers
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The objective of the “Maastricht Talks” is to engage in high level Dutch-German conversations between ministers of education, senior policy-makers, representatives of national agencies and university leaders who have a key stake in modernizing higher education governance, leadership and management, with a particular focus on deans of faculties.   The intention is to enhance the understanding of the two systems and discuss challenges, with a view to share lessons learnt. Ultimately the purpose is also to explore areas where the Netherlands and Germany can cooperate further at system and institutional levels.

Maastricht Talks: 2 weeks to go! From C.Scholz (29.03.2015)

The preparations of the Maastricht Talks (April 10 – 12) are smoothly on the way – thanks to the great organisers in Maastricht: The list of participants is completed, the program is fantastic and we are really enthusiastic about this event.

We will have a high level  conversations between policy-makers  and university leaders, searching for ways to continue the process of  modernizing higher education governance.

There will be a particular focus on deans of faculties: Even though sometimes overlooked and underestimated,  they play a key role in this process. One goal of this meeting is to enhance the understanding of the systems from The Netherlands and from Germany,  to discuss challenges, with a view to share lessons learnt.

Something to read … from C.Scholz (30.03.2015)

Here is a little paper dealing with deans and governance structures of universities:

Scholz, Christian/Stein, Volker, University Governance and the Contemporary Role of the Dean: A Brief Look into a Research Agenda. KORFU-Arbeitspapier Nr. 19, Siegen – Saarbrücken 2015.


Deans are in a sandwich position between the rector or president of the university and the professors (and all the other staff) of a department. As such they have to filter and break down information top-down as well as vice versa. This is always a position of mediation – communication is the key to get this done reasonably well. Looking forward to a communicative workshop 4deans in Maastricht!

Dear Prof. Scholz,
thank you and Martin Paul again for organizing this great meeting. I really benefitted professionally and personally a great deal!
One question: Is the paper that you provided published? i.e. can i disseminate it here in OL to induce discussion and dealing with the issue?
Best regards
Gregor Theilmeier

Thank’s for the feedback.
Feel free to use and to distribute the paper.
chris scholz

A little question: What do we need deans for? From C.Scholz (30.05.2015)

Besides bringing together the view from The Netherlands and from Germany, the Maastricht-Talks will focus on the role of the Deans. It would be great, if the participants of our conference could share with us their view on what Deans are and/or what Deans should be. Therefore: Please leave a comment.


First of all, many thanks to the organizers for the idea and the preparation of the Maastricht Talks.
What do we need deans for?
The answer depends on the point of view:
– For the administration of the university, the dean is the person, who should full fill all the needs which arise due to reduction of budget and staff (sorry, but I have never heard about some increase in this fields).
– For the head of the university, the dean is the one who is responsible for the performance and the development of the faculty (unfortunately there is the question about the controlling tools to do so)
– For the colleagues, the dean is the person who had to solve all the little tiny daily problems, making it easier for them to perform.
To summarize: deans are the „all-in-one device suitable for every purpose“ and we need deans to make the (academic) world go around.

Personal experience US Dean from M.Wessling (06.04.2015)

Here is a link to the writing of an American Dean; it is easy reading containing relevant issues. http://chronicle.com/article/Is-It-Really-That-Tough-/46528/

Kind regards,

Matthias Wessling

RWTH Aachen


Nice article.
And one quite interesting sentence:
The danger in trying to „protect“ your faculty is that you can disempower them in the process

Deans are in a sandwich position from B.Zolitschka (10.04.2015)

Deans are in a sandwich position between the rector/president of the university and the professors (and all the other staff) of the department. As such they have to filter and break down information top-down as well as vice versa. This is always a position of mediation – communication is the key to get this done reasonably well.

Looking forward to a communicative workshop 4deans in Maastricht!

Deans in North-Rhine Westfalia from S.Uhlig (10.04.2015)

In NRW the deaneries bear the responsibilities for all major structural and financial decisions. In the deans meetings the dean has the right of veto. In addition, the dean is one of four members of the board of directors of the university hospital. Here, he has the right of suspensive veto in all questions concerning research and teaching. In addition, the dean represents the faculty externally.

My conference diary … from C.Scholz (10.04.2015)

… will be here in the COMMENTS


The opening of the conference by Martin Paul, the host of the Maastricht Talk:

The dean as an ACADEMIC manager!
Discussing academic professionalism when you try to get better universities!
The dean – Collegial Candor!

PG Kroeger is the moderator of the conference and our „Science Guide“

Karl Dittrich:
Turbulent times can be meaningful times.
Universities – not ivory tower, but glass house and maybe even shopping mall.
(And now we have to think whether this is good?)
Be careful: What do we pay attention to!
Summing up: Give us trust! As universities we will survive. We are looking for new ways of dealing with the government and of dealing within the university.

What is relevant for the NEXT-Generation?
(A panel by younger academics; good idea: not just baby boomers talking about the future of others).
?? How to keep academic character alive??
!! It is important how departments are run!!
(1) There seem to be task forces, where junior faculty and others really are involved.
(2) One panelist seems to love the Australian example, with lots of KPIs and the individual discussions between dean and „the individual“ about how much which part of the work should be weighted and measured.
(3) We get an increasing level of competition within the university – especially in the group if international students.
(4) How to create small groups of students in the master programs, who work together and feel like a group: How to become small within big.

Two main issues:
(1) Temporary contracts
(2) Bureaucratic Accreditation and Evaluation.

After my presentation (thanks for the interesting discussion to the experience from other countries and to the six models) we had dinner at a nice restaurant, with Spanish music performed by international students and a revealing dinner speech by Marnix Krop, the former Ambassador of the Netherlands in Germany. His topic: Germany as the heart of Europe.
I look forward to tomorrow!

Today in the morning we had two workshops: One on the role of the dean, the other (and this has been mine) was on media management. After that we had a long and interesting discussion on the career perspective of the dean. Should we have external people? Maybe from industry? Should we have professors who become for 2-4 years deans? What is a „professional“ dean? How could and should deans „play“ the media? Do they know enough about it? In which ways can they promote the USP of a faculty?

In the world cafe an impressive number of issues have been raised – guided by really good students as table hosts.
Even though we got only a brief summary, we got a nice closing sentence:
„How can a dean move? Go with the flow or against it“ (well it seems that the majority of the deans voted for the former ….).
If these students are the deans of the future, we do not have to worry about the future.

I really liked the lecture given by Heyo Krömer.
„Universities should have societal impact!“
„Universities should be more political to the outside!“
„The academic system has a high value and we must protect its components such as the principle of electing deans!“
One point should be clarified: „We need a career system for deans!“
If this means „being dean is part of an academic management career“ I disagree.
If it means „we have to get deans prepared for the job“ I agree.
I definitely disagree to his observation, that in Germany the current laws put power away from the president. As shown elsewhere, the presidents currently always get more power.
However: Except this one little sentence …. a great presentation!!! Thank you!!

Deans as global players? Lecture from Ludwig Neyes:
„Only 2% of all students are international figures!“
„Don’t look at Humboldt as an old idealistic idea. It is real and it should be real!“
„Going to the UK: You learn to write an English English (2x) grant application“.“
„Be careful: There is a glass ceiling to international academics in the US and in the UK.“
„We need at least 20% international people for an international faculty.“
Lecture from Christian Müller (DAAD). This lecture has been really revealing for me, since it explained, where the money comes from: the BMBF, the Auswärtige Amt and from the BMZ:
The BMBF has money for sending German people to other countries. (1) The Auswärtige Amt gives (a lot of) money (181 Million) for people who would like to come to Germany. (2) The BMBF has less money (180 Million).
Therefore it is much more complicated (and bureaucratic) for students and faculty from Germany to go abroad, while it is rather easy for foreigners to get money to come to Germany (and apparently in a much more flexible way).
(3) The BMZ (40 Million Euro) gives money for connections between Third Countries: to people from Latin America to go to Latin America and, for instance, to Spanish universities to finance institutions in Spain that are working internationally. And it looks, that here the money flows extremely easy.
Also: The DAAD is involved in the process of „Shaping Higher Education“ – with the help and (at least to my experience) extremely through the eyes and with the goals of the HRK (the lobby-group of presidents and rectors of German universities). They do not work together with the Fakultätentag.

Martin Schader explained the EQUIS-system. Even though it has not been spelled out, EQUIS calls for a specific government structure in universities.
As Rudolf Müller put it: „To follow EQUIS and to comply to all the EQUIS-standards is not possible without a full-time professional dean who is in office for many years.“ (80% of the deans in EQUIS-institutions follow already – according to Martin Schader – this pattern; and in Mannheim we even got a retired manager from industry to be dean)
Well: At the end and in some years, you might not get an EQUIS-accredition if you do not have such a dean. And if you don’t have accreditations, you might not be included in rankings ……
(We had a similar case in Germany, where CHE/ZEIT put those universities down in the rankings, in which the president had no right to select the dean or at least had the right to veto elections of the faculties. And we had the Handelsblatt which put only those schools in its rankings, which had certain accreditations).
Do we really want this „authority“? Why not rely on the market, on diversity, on academic culture and on real quality?
I did not see any proof that EQUIS or other of these institutions of higher education agencies have a positive cost/benefit-ratio! Maybe we should try to get rid of these accreditation procedures and of all this „producing paper and writing chapters“.
Mark Frederiks informed us, that in the they are looking for a „more leaner“ system of accreditation. I like this sentence!

Farewell and „let’s get started“ from C.Scholz (12.04.2015)


Martin Paul and myself would like to thank you all for your participation in this conference. We see a general belief that a specific platform for deans is needed. And we got some ideas, how such a platform could look like. We’ll  continue to work on it. Therefore, as Steve Jobs once said: „It’s all just the beginning.“


Thanks again for organising an inspiring conference. I very much enjoyed the time together with other colleagues and listening to the inputs and discussions. Hope this continues.
Jochen Zimmermann

Continuation of „Deans talks“ from P.Schaaf (28.05.2015)

Many thanks again to the organisers of the Maastricht talks. I found this very interesting, exciting and informative. To my opinion, this format should be tried to be continuated, maybe broadened in the sense of nations (BeNeLuX, France, Germany, Austria,…) and departments (maybe also more ingeneers, physicists, …).

Organisation was excellent and contributions very interesting.

PhD topics from N.Burquel (28.04.2015)

One topic was maybe missing in the deans talks. Departments and faculties, thus deans, are at the forefront of the responsibily for the PhD programms. Open PhDs like in Germany or PhD schools are somewhat opposite approaches (3rd stage of Bologna). This topic is maybe also very important and should be included in the future.