New faculty management survey

CHE Consult was commissioned by the CHE Centre for Higher Education to investigate the use of internal management tools at German higher education institutions (HEIs). In particular, the survey shed light on how each individual management tool, as well as certain combinations of such tools, influence faculties’ strategic activities. A total of around 500 people were surveyed. One of the outcomes of the survey is that there needs to be a better coordination of the management elements used.

Faculties play an important role at German HEIs: this is where both teaching and research take place, it is ultimately also the place where reforms that have been introduced in recent years have to be implemented. According to the management approach of granting internal autonomy, faculties should ideally be capable of defining their own strategic objectives within the context of their HEI’s overall objectives, and of aligning their internal management to those objectives.

To implement these reform approaches and, in particular, to flesh out the relationship between central and decentralised units, four formal management tools in particular have become established in recent years: target agreements, performance-based resource allocation, global budgets and the budgeting of personnel costs.

In the case of performance-based resource allocation, the distribution model between the federal state and its HEIs has often been applied to the HEI’s internal units, extending the management impetus inwards, as it were. In target agreements, overarching and decentralised objectives are strategically placed in context with each other, linked to methods of measuring performance, and balanced out. A high degree of decentralised financial flexibility was also to be achieved by granting global budgets and, in particular, enabling the internal budgeting of personnel costs.

CHE has investigated the use of these management elements in university practice, and their impact. The survey of around 500 people involved in faculty management at German HEIs generated the following results:

  • Around two-thirds of the respondents use global budgets, target agreements and performance-based resource allocation at their HEIs. Slightly fewer respondents (40 per cent) budgeted their personnel costs, i.e. used the option of managing staff costs at the faculty level. This management approach particularly appears to be less feasible at small HEIs.
  • Whereas the respondents believe that global budgets and the budgeting of personnel costs do indeed enable faculties to implement strategic projects and resolve problems, performance-based resource allocation and target agreements appear at first sight to fall short of their expectations: only around 30 per cent of the respondents believe that the tools have the intended motivating effect on researchers.
  • And yet these tools also have positive effects: target agreements are considered particularly appropriate for enhancing trust between the university management and the faculties. In this connection, it is conspicuous that many target agreements not only include coordinated overarching and decentralised targets, but also a large proportion of concrete action plans. In contrast, the respondents particularly appreciate the way in which performance-based resource allocation enhances transparency.
  • Taken as a whole, it can be said that, from the faculty perspective, not all tools have the desired effect. They must be combined appropriately in order to achieve a positive overall effect. In other words, it is very much a matter of fleshing out the tools.

If the university management uses reports to make it clear to the faculties what the effects of the indicators of performance-based resource allocation are, and to communicate a pledge of confidence within the target agreement, then these tools represent an effective frame for financial freedom within the faculty. The side-by-side existence of individual tools, observed in many cases, needs to be overcome.

“The management tools should be coordinated closely in terms of content, time and function, rather than being developed independently of each other. With regard to faculties’ strategic activities, it is essential to establish a dynamic balance between the university’s overarching strategic goals and innovative solutions to problems at the faculty level by pursuing such package deals,” recommended Thimo von Stuckrad, co-author of the study.

CHE has been supporting the development of faculty management at higher education institutions for 14 years by conducting studies, preparing publications and organising events. One such event is the “CHE Forum Faculty Management”, which will take place in Kassel this year on 4/5 June 2018. The study now presented is the first of two parts of the “Untersuchung Fakultätsmanagement 2016” (Investigation of Faculty Management 2016) due for publication in spring 2018.




Lars Hüning+49 30 2332267-56Write e-mail