Ursula Staudinger at Congress for University Innovation 2021

On June 14, 2021, the Congress for University Innovation 2021 took place in the Amerikahaus in Munich with high-ranking experts from politics, science and business. Together, they discussed the core elements of a future-oriented university system and wanted to set impulses for political decisions.

Panel discussion at the Congress for University Innovation 2021 © Andreas Gebert

The event – with an audience on site – was organized as a “hybrid future workshop” by the Bavarian State Ministry for Science and Art, the Heinz Nixdorf Foundation and the “Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft”. Around 600 interested people took part. Together with Prof. Dr. Peter Frankenberg, Dr. Muriel Helbig and Prof. Dr. Rolf Tarrach Siegel, Prof. Dr. Ursula Staudinger participated in the panel discussion on internal university management. The focus was on the comparison of governance models and the question of power.

More participation for a variety of perspectives

“The strength of the university in its autonomy lies in the freedom of teaching and research – both in its smallest unit and in the aggregate as an institution,” said Staudinger. Through participatory processes and a change in the university culture at TU Dresden, she wants to contribute to turning the nucleus of autonomy – the professors – into agents for the future of the entire institution. “It not only sounds difficult, it is difficult,” she reported. It meant to stay in constant conversation with different status groups and hierarchy levels. The aim was to use the resulting diversity of perspectives as a strength and innovation driver.

Ursula Staudinger at the Congress for University Innovation 2021 © Andreas Gebert

An important aspect was also an existing error culture and the associated willingness to take risks. “We haven’t learned that making a mistake or failing is the beginning of success,” she said. This had to be carried into the institution much more strongly, because in Germany, and especially at universities, people were still more risk averse.

Business intelligence for further development

“If we want to improve our strategy and control capabilities, we have to develop systematic business intelligence,” Staudinger continued. The universities could only develop further if they had permanent access to the most important information at all times. It was not just about classic performance parameters as they were used at the universities of excellence, but about individual control parameters against which one would like to be measured.

“To define and anchor higher education and research as a public good should be of great value to us,” emphasized Staudinger. It was important that universities have planning security from public sponsors. However, it should not be about full financing. “I believe that there is also an innovative strength when we develop further sources of funding as a university.” In addition to working together with commercial enterprises, this also included constructive cooperation with society in order to open up new financing opportunities and, at the same time, to assume responsibility as an active participant in civil society.

The range of topics at the Congress for University Innovation 2021 was broad. Experts from several federal states as well as the federal government answered numerous questions during the panel discussions in the morning and parallel forums in the afternoon. In view of the upcoming federal election in autumn, the political framework conditions required for universities to thrive as places for innovation were repeatedly discussed. A summary of the results of the congress will be published in autumn 2021.