The Role of Foundations in German Higher Education

Opusculum 85 | 01.08.2015 | A Case Study on the Influence of Foundations on Teaching at Universities


 Executive Summary

The need for a change in the status and quality of teaching at German universities has been on the public agenda for several years now and actions have been taken to improve the situation by a number of stakeholders. This thesis examines the role which foundations have played in this process and links its empirical analysis to the existing theoretical framework about the roles which foundations can play in society (Anheier & Daly, 2007). The qualitative analysis is based on an examination of written material as well as twelve interviews conducted with foundation and university representatives as well as policy makers. Its main results are firstly a typology consisting of the three main categories of “Competitions”, “Networking” and “Think Tank” describing current foundation programs aimed at university teaching. Secondly, case studies analyzing the programs Wettbewerb Exzellente Lehre and Lehren indicate that they both originated from a failure of the state to set up programs regarded necessary for the improvement of university teaching. Thirdly, while foundation programs certainly contributed to putting the issue on the political agenda, a causal connection between the Wettbewerb Exzellente Lehre in particular and the subsequent Federal-Länder program Qualitätspakt Lehre cannot be clearly established. Lastly, the analysis suggests the addition of a category of “networkers” to the conventional canon of roles which foundations play in society. The thesis concludes by providing policy recommendations aimed at foundation program managers and points out some risks such as a lack of sustainability and evaluation threatening the effectiveness of foundation programs.