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News of 07.02.2019

Not one single university rector is from eastern Germany

The typical german senior university manager is male, was born in Germany and 59 years old. These are the conclusions reached by an evaluation undertaken by the CHE Centre for Higher Education. The analysis of the curricula vitae of university presidents and rectors also revealed strong regional disparities: one in three university managers come from North Rhine-Westphalia, but not a single one is from Germany’s eastern federal states.

The average age of state university rectors and presidents is 59. In addition, 95 per cent of senior university managers come from Germany; only four per cent were born abroad. Around one in three originate from North Rhine-Westphalia. In contrast, not a single state university leader was born in eastern Germany.

“Despite merely being a snapshot, it is indeed remarkable that, 30 years after reunification, we have a university landscape that does not feature a single top executive from eastern Germany,” criticised Frank Ziegele. In light of this, the CHE Executive Director would generally like to see greater heterogeneity at all levels: “Diversity is apparent on campus in students’ educational biographies, so why is not there not greater diversity in executive positions, too?”

The gender ratio also provides a clear picture: three-quarters of all universities are currently led by men. The percentage used to be even higher – one in four female university presidents and rectors only came into office in 2018.

The leaders’ educational backgrounds are much more differentiated. “Today’s senior university managers include not only legal experts, but also sports scientists and former teacher training students,” stated Isabel Roessler, who led the study.

In addition to this diverse biographical range of subjects, the CHE Senior Project Manager also welcomes the scope for career progression within the university landscape: “Gone are the days when those who held a management position at a university had to take a back seat after leaving office. Every second senior university manager already had experience as a vice president on the presidential board.” Six of them had previously managed another university.




The aim of the CHE analysis is to create transparency in the situation of managers at German higher education institutions. “Universities are often among the biggest employers in the city or region. This is just one reason why senior university managers have at least the same level of responsibility as CEOs of companies,” stated CHE Executive Director Frank Ziegele. For this reason, he believes it is important to analyse and gain a better understanding of specific career paths in university management. In autumn 2019, CHE will add information about executives from universities of applied sciences to the existing data.

About this publication. The author of the publication “CHECK – Universitätsleitung in Deutschland” (CHECK − university management in Germany) is Isabel Roessler. More than 2,500 data were analysed. These data originated from the curricula vitae of senior university managers published on the internet, complemented by enquiries with presidential boards and rectorates. The study contains data from all 81 universities under public law, with the exception of teacher training colleges and arts universities. The analysis was compiled in December 2018.


Further Information can be found in the publication stated below.

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