About the Conference

Regardless whether we talk about undergraduate studies in special or about tertiary education on a whole: Looking at university systems around the world, we see more problems than answers. Financing, developing, and positioning the institutions, managing the academic and non-academic members of the university, orchestrating the joint activities in teaching and research, reaching cutting- edge quality, and finally putting universities on a sustainable path into the future are only some of the areas which need improvement.

However, currently the direction of the change is not clear among the institutional players:

  • For some, the solution lies in an even more centralistic governance structure, for others, individual profit centres appear to be the solution.
  • For some, universities are considered to be corporations, run according to principles of what is seen as modern business, for others, universities still have something to do with ideas of Humboldt.
  • For some, a strict top-down approach seems to be only solution to deal with the fast-changing environment, for others, intelligent federalist models with academic crowd sourcing is the only answer.
  • For some, companies and politics are the modern driving forces into the future, for others with an old-fashioned way of thought, “professors” themselves ought to act as promoters of change.
  • For some, the market-based model is the logic of the future, where external constituencies determine the strategy, for others, resource dependencies shape the competitive advantage.
  • For some, the pressure is so high, that immediate action is needed, others see the chance increating dynamic capabilities over the long term.
  • For some, universities are driven by extrinsic motivation, where rankings and Key Performance Indicators are the names of the game, for others, universities should be seen as a place, where intrinsic motivation is the key differentiator.
  • For some, universities are societal luxury, for others, universities are the socio-political conscience of a society.

And the directions are not only unclear. They even become more divers and diffuse.

Looking at the international level, there are striking similarities as well as surprising differences: In basically all countries we see an increasing pressure on the university system. However, some countries go for more centralistic solutions, other countries for decentralized models.

One question, which is in the intersection of most of these topics, refers to the role of the dean: it fluctuates between the two extremes “agent of the president” and “CEO of the faculty”. Therefore, our conference will focus on the role of the dean. In doing so, we are looking for answers with regard to four questions:

  1. Mission of the Dean: Why are faculties the true heart of the modern university?
  2. Strategy of the Dean: How to gain a competitive advantage for the faculty?
  3. Autonomy of the Dean: How can a faculty survive between feudalism and kindergarten?
  4. Professionalism of the Dean: What are the necessary tools and secret weapons for faculties?

As it looks right now, we will start together with a brief look into these four questions, will then split up for the afternoon of the first day, and will try to bring ideas together at the second day.

The organizational aspects:

Date: The conference will take place June 26-29 2013 in Saarbruecken. We will start with a Get-Together on Wednesday evening and will have a closing meeting on late Friday afternoon.

Financing: There will be no conference fee (except for things such as meals). As soon as we have the final list of participants, we will seek financial support for that meeting, with the aim of covering hopefully parts of the travelling expenses. However, right now we cannot guarantee this.

Format: The conference will be a combination of key notes, lectures, presentations, and workshops.

Input: Each participant has a specific role and/or a specific function in this conference, which will be agreed upon before. In general, every participant provides a short paper, which relates to that specific role or the specific topic.

Keynote: The conference will be opened by a keynote given by Prof. Dr. Martin Paul, the President of the University of Maastricht.

Location: We will meet at the Olympic Training Center, just a few minutes away from Saarland University.

Organizer: The conference is a joint activity of the Saarland University (Prof. Christian Scholz) and Siegen University (Prof. Volker Stein), who work together in the project KORFU, which deals with collegial structures within universities and is supported by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF).

Output: The conference does not aim at “reading papers”. We will discuss, work together and aim at a joint output – not on a pure consensus base, but as a result of an academic dialectic approach. The exact format and the consequences will be determined at the conference.

Participants: We will invite deans, presidents, chancellors, politicians, journalists, professors, and educational researchers from Europe, Australia, Japan, Canada, USA, Africa, Russia, South East Asia and Latin America. The number of participants will be around 50.

Support: The conference is partially supported by the BMBF and the DIES-Programme of DAAD and HRK together with the BMZ.

Other aspects are currently worked out according to the wishes of the participants.



It is the object of KORFU to analyze alternative governance structures of the higher education system:

  • In a first step, the reforms of the last decade and their consequences for the academic nature of a university are scrutinized: Why were these reforms been implemented? Which kind of governance structure resulted from these reform? How are research and teaching affected by the new governance structure? Which are the major changes for the system of higher education? In this regard, the transformation of the governance structure of German universities is of special interest.
  • In a second step, the research is focused on the development of alternative governance structures. In this context much attention will be dedicated to systems of higher education in Australia, France, Japan and the USA. Based on this information KORFU will contribute to the evolutionary development of governance structures. Finally, the effective operation of these alternative governance structures will be tested by means of computer simulation.

KORFU is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and coordinated by DLR German Aerospace Center.


KORFU is a joint project of the Saarland University (Saarbrücken, Germany) and the University of Siegen, Germany. Univ.-Prof. Dr. Christian Scholz (Saarland University) and Univ.-Prof. Dr. Volker Stein (University of Siegen) are heading the project. The research assistants are Emanuela Becker, Tobias Scholz and Inken de Wit.

(April 2, 2013)