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Study shows loss of power for academic faculties

Faculties are losing their influence and importance as Germany’s higher education system undergoes restructuring, a report by the Stifterverband, an association of German research sponsors, has found.

The report said that research strategy at German universities is increasingly focussed around themes and clusters, rather than on the traditional faculties. The study also said that faculties are losing the power to influence research direction, as large funding programmes and international collaborations increasingly shape the game.

The report, ‘Jenseits der Fakuläten’ (Beyond Faculties), published in December, found that nearly 80 per cent of German universities have established research units outside faculties. It said that three out of four rectors think that research will become increasingly interdisciplinary and more theme-related.

“Our analysis shows a sneaking revolution of differentiation within the higher education institutions,” said Horst Nasko, head of the Heinz Nixdorf Foundation, which was involved in drawing up the study. “Universities are participating in the solving of grand international problems through these new units of organisation.”

Nasko added that the faculties’ loss of power was also partly down to the higher expectations of society, which increasingly sees universities as holistic problem-solvers rather than experts in narrow fields.