“We Have to Explain What Makes a German Administration Tick”

Text: (Published: Kosmos Dec/2013)

KOSMOS: The interim evaluation of five years of the Humboldt Professorship is largely positive. But it does identify some critical areas which will need to be addressed in the 2015 evaluation. What are you concerned about?
AUFDERHEIDE: One genuine concern is the low proportion of women, even amongst the nominees. Apart from this, I wouldn’t really say there were any serious concerns, especially given all the positive signals we have received. But there are points we need to address. For example, the observation that not all universities seem to be exploiting the programme’s potential. This is particularly true of dual-career offers. And some Humboldt Professors simply don’t know what makes a German university administration tick, and how it functions. We have already responded to this and offer personal advice through the German Association of University Professors and Lecturers. This has really helped a number of people.

KOSMOS: There are odd reports that universities are dragging their heels about implementing items in the agreed strategies, or are only implementing some of them.
AUFDERHEIDE: You’re quite right when you call them “odd reports”. Still, in the evaluation we shall examine this point carefully and hold the universities to their word – because the university’s strategic plan is an integral part of the overall package and the basis for the positive decision made by our selection committee. After all, the strategies are supposed to ensure that the professorships are as beneficial as possible for the university itself. This should be the aim of everyone involved.

KOSMOS: The Humboldt Professorship has set a precedent worldwide. Now a similar funding programme is being discussed here, the Mercator Professorship. Will this be competition for the Humboldt Professorship?
AUFDERHEIDE: The fact that our format is catching on abroad endorses its value. I would say that competition is good for business, but I do have a few question marks about the Mercator Professorship. Is it supposed to complement the Humboldt Professorship with different focus areas, or is it supposed to compete with it? As far as international competition is concerned, our programme is definitely well established, and its reputation is growing. We should develop this brand.