Lothar Zechlin: Towards Institutional Autonomy: The Austrian University Reform - Quick Change, No Public Management (PDF)

Lothar Zechlin: Towards Institutional Autonomy: The Austrian University Reform - Quick Change, No Public Management (PDF)

As the meeting takes place in Vienna, I would like to give the participants a general overviewof the process of change in Austrian Higher Education. Compared with the situation in otherGerman speaking countries, the Austrian Higher Education system has been rather traditionaluntil the late 90s. It was only in the last few years that Austria followed a world-wide trendtowards decentralisation and corporate autonomy of the universities – but this tremendouslyfast and deep! The stages of this process consist mainly in the University Law of 1993,establishment of polytechnics and private universities, introduction of tuition-fees and newlabour law 2001 and the University Law 2002 which grants universities their legal autonomy.As the making of the University Law 2002 was a purely governmental Top-Down processwithout prior evaluation or involvement of the universities a short reflection will be presenteddealing with the consequences of this situation for the self awareness of universities asorganisations.

In a second part of this presentation the relation between state and university as presented inthe University Law 2002 will be analysed in more detail. The hypothesis is that the reform ofthe university will lead - far beyond the genuine concept of New Public Management – to an“exceeding” privatisation. The reason for that is a lack of parliamentary responsibility forHigher Education Policy. NPM does not abandon political control but puts it only into adifferent form by replacing the traditional detailed ministerial control by a management byobjectives because this is presumed to be more efficient and effective. However, the political–administrative system has not yet built up the prerequisite capacity in its own bodies for aprocess of strategic goal setting. Parliament, government and ministries find it easier topressurise the universities and to impress the public opinion by that instead of “doing theirown homework”. In the long run this might jeopardise the public character of HigherEducation as has been developed within the long European tradition of the history ofuniversities. (Sigue)

Consortium of Higher Education Researchers, 15th Annual Conference, 5-7 September 2002, Vienna, Austria