Extended horizon as opposed to monoculture ‒ 10 Theses on Realigning the Excellence Initiative
The federal government and German states have agreed to continue the Excellence Initiative, but are still debating on how to flesh it out. As a contribution to the ongoing debate, the CHE Centre for Higher Education now presents its considerations in favour of a concept for reissuing the Excellence Initiative. The core element is extending the horizon of higher education excellence whilst retaining a strong degree of selectivity.
In one key issue, the CHE Centre for Higher Education sees an urgent need to realign the Excellence Initiative: The program made perfect sense when it was initiated and it was the right thing to focus initially on excellence in research and supporting early career researchers, and not to overload the initiative with additional objectives. Vertical differentiation, i.e. the identification of excellence, was established successfully. Now, by analogy, there is a need, and the opportunity, for horizontal differentiation, i.e. the multiplicity of potential excellence, to become firmly entrenched in the German higher education system.
“The Excellence Initiative has proved its effectiveness,” emphasises CHE Executive Director Frank Ziegele. “And for this very reason, it must now initiate the next stage: society relies on higher education institutions (HEI) achieving excellence not only in research, but also in other areas such as teaching, knowledge transfer/third mission, internationality and regional engagement.” It is crucial that these profiling directions are not played off against one another, but that key areas are prioritised within the HEI, interlinking to create an excellent global approach.
In its publication entitled “10 Thesen zur Neuausrichtung der Exzellenzinitiative” (10 Theses on Realigning the Excellence Initiative, published in German), the CHE devises a concept that aims to reward excellent HEI profiles. Acting as impetus for the expert debate, cornerstones are created that can also be translated into practice. For example, the position paper provides concrete proposals on matters such as dimensions of excellence, units to be supported and criteria for eligibility. The readjusted Excellence Initiative is subject to the important basic condition that demonstrably sustained research excellence should now also be translated into basic funding.
Even if the Excellence Initiative is extended substantively to areas beyond pure research, the principle of the selective support of excellence should still be maintained, states Ziegele. In fact, excellence alone should continue to be supported on a highly selective basis ‒ albeit now in a multidimensional manner in the various relevant areas of performance. Here, CHE Executive Director Ziegele sees parallels to another award in the academic field: “The later addition of the ‘Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences’ did not dent the reputation of the Nobel Prize either, because it is awarded according to the same criteria. The positive effects and incentives of the Excellence Initiative may be key to establishing the notion of multifaceted excellence if, despite substantive expansion, the principle of the selective support of excellence is clearly maintained. Support based on the so-called ‘watering can principle’ (principle of giving everybody an equal share) has to be seen as unacceptable.”
Further Information can be found in the publication stated below.