New University Act: Statement by the NRW Rectors' Conference
On January 14, 2012, the Rectors‘ Conference of North Rhine-Westphalia (LRK NRW) published a statement on the draft version of the new NRW University Act. According to the universities in NRW, the new Act poses a threat to university autonomy and the quality of teaching and learning.
Excerpts of the Press Release by the NRW Rectors' Conference
The development of the universities in North Rhine-Westphalia over the last years is a success story. They successfully managed the double cohort of secondary school leavers and increased their research performance.
The NRW universities are convinced that in order to be able to maintain this level of performance, the new University Act needs to be fundamentally revised before coming into effect. The critique of the current draft version of the Act focuses on five central points:
The Quality of Teaching and Learning is Under Threat
The improved competitiveness of the NRW universities was made possible by increased flexibility and room for autonomous action of the University Autonomy Act currently in force. The planned limitation of responsibility and autonomy on the part of the university will result in a substantial, sustainable impairment of the universities’ research performance and their development potential in teaching and learning.
The Act Creates Opaque Structures and Undermines Democratic Participation
The new University Act aims to establish a system which gives inordinate power to the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Research. The ministerial bureaucracy will have the capacity to bypass the university and its bodies in decision making processes and act largely without parliamentary control. In this way, structures and decisions are made much less transparent.
Severe Limitation of Academic Freedom
The new Act makes it possible for the NRW Ministry of Innovation, Science and Research comprehensively to control the universities, possibly even trespassing the constitutionally guaranteed academic freedom. The Act stipulates, for example, that the ministry may withdraw a faculty’s right to award doctoral degrees. Such a grave encroachment on academic freedom unprecedented and questionable with regard to the ethics of science.
Massive Bureaucratization at the Expense of Students and Research
The regulations stipulated in the draft version of the Act and the unbalanced increase in bureaucratic powers of the Ministry will result in a significant growth in bureaucracy in general. None of the newly introduced regulations helps the universities in fulfilling their roles. The increase in administrative expenditure is expected to generate costs in the millions, and this at a time of limited public funds.
2500 Jobs under Threat – Weakening of NRW as a Location of Science and Business
Constraining the universities’ scope for action means to weaken their innovative power; in this way, North Rhine-Westphalia as a site of business will lose important economic impulses. Under the new Act, it will no longer be possible to guarantee partners from business and industry the necessary confidentiality for research collaborations. Thus, in research alone, about 2500 positions are under threat.