Council in the college

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The Council is based on the country's higher education legislation in Saxony , Thuringia , Berlin and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania , the highest decision-making body of the local universities represent. Due legally different regimes differ its tasks and its composition. What they have in common, however, is its function as an advisory body for fundamental matters and the election of the other highest bodies and functionaries as well as an interface to society.

In other federal states, a functionally similar body is also referred to as a Grand Senate, Academic Assembly, Convention or Consistory. The council is a central collegial body of the universities.


In the internal structure of the universities, for which the Higher Education Framework Act (HRG) prescribes a structure from the member groups of the body , the council is the basic assembly. It should ensure a balance of interests between the groups. In addition, it represents an interface between the work of the universities and their tasks in society. Even if guests from outside the university rarely take part in the public meetings, they can help create increased transparency and align the universities with the fulfillment of a public one Stressed task. Councils usually have a large number of members and often do not meet more than once or twice a year. Because of their low frequency of meetings, the lack of current references and the relevance of the topics, they are often little known to the other members of the university and are seen as an outgrowth of the academic “committee jungle”. Councils were previously provided for under federal law in §39 and §63 HRG, which have now been dropped.

Structure and tasks

The council consists of representatives of the member groups, with the professors and lecturers usually receiving more than 50 percent of the votes and seats. Typically in the council the constitution is decided, the rector , the vice rectors and the senators are elected. Since the rector is elected by the council (all four countries have a rectorate constitution, even if a presidential constitution is possible in Thuringia), this body is the only one that the rector does not officially chair and for which he cannot make any decisions in emergencies. Since the council is supposed to control the rector, it is not advisable to lead it through him (also Thieme ).


In Saxony, until mid-2009, the publicly held council consisted of the faculty councils and other council members who were elected directly and separately according to groups. He also included directly elected members of staff not assigned to the faculties . The group of university professors had to have a majority of at least one vote. Therefore, the councils were very large bodies with sometimes more than 100 members entitled to vote, for example at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg , where the council consisted of 152 people. It was accordingly difficult to convene quorum meetings, especially if the basic order was to be adopted by a two-thirds majority of the members. The individual groups each elected a board of directors who alternately led the meetings of the council and was not allowed to belong to the senate. The rector had to convene the council at least once a year, but in any case if a member group or a third of the members of the council so requested. The term of office of the members was three, for students one year.

The council adopted the basic order, elected the rector, the vice rectors, the electoral senators and discussed activity, teaching, research and evaluation reports. It also commented on the annual report of the student union and on the activity report of the equal opportunities officer.

The council, with some of its many members, was abolished in Saxony with the new higher education law in mid-2009. The task of the council is now carried out by the Senate, the newly created Extended Senate and the newly introduced University Council.


In Thuringia, §78 Thuringian Higher Education Act stipulated as tasks for the council that it

  • Makes recommendations for matters of fundamental importance that affect the entire university,
  • decides the basic and electoral regulations with a two-thirds majority,
  • elect the Rector or President and the Vice Rectors or Vice-Presidents, and
  • advises the rector's annual report.

It was also involved in the election of Chancellor. The councils in Thuringia met publicly.

It consisted of university lecturers, students, academic (and other) employees in a ratio of 6: 3: 2 (: 1), at universities of applied sciences 5: 3: 2. The council elected a chairman and a deputy from each of the other groups. With an opening clause, the constitution could provide for the Council to be combined with the Senate or for other committee structures to be set up on the basis of the trial clause (§132c ThürHG) with the approval of the Ministry.

On the basis of Article 1, Section 115, Paragraph 3 of the Thuringian Law to Change University Regulations of December 21, 2006 (GVBl. P. 601), the councils at the Thuringian universities were dissolved at the end of December 31, 2007 or June 30, 2008 .


In Berlin, too, the council deals with the fundamental issues of universities. The BerlHG details the composition of the councils of the various Berlin universities in §62. The council according to the BerlHG

  • elects the head of the university and its vice-presidents or prorectors,
  • decides the constitution and
  • discusses the annual report of the head of the university.

There is also a board of directors made up of representatives from all member groups.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

The State University Act defines the following tasks for the council in §80:

  • Advice on basic matters
  • the resolution of the basic and electoral regulations
  • the election of the members of the university management and the university council
  • the election of members of the university management on the proposal of the Senate,

The council meets publicly at the university, with exceptions by resolution. It can have up to 66 members and consists of the groups in a ratio of 2: 2: 1: 1. What should be emphasized is the comparatively higher number of students who can also elect their representatives to the university management. The university management in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania consists of the university director, the chancellor, up to two other professors and up to two other university members.

The term of office is two years, with two possible re-elections. The council elects a chairman from among its members.


The requirement of the university laws that more than 50 percent of the council should be made up of professors has been criticized on various occasions, according to A. Keller. The wording of the judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court of 1973 as well as the HRG did not require this, since in these bodies the requirement of professor dominance is only made on those bodies that directly make decisions on research and teaching. In the version according to the 3rd HRGÄndG, such a provision was temporarily part of the HRG, but was then revised again through the release to state law with the 4th HRGÄndG.

The competence of the councils is also sometimes called into question, since the members seldom can acquire a sufficient overview of current issues in other committees and functions. Therefore, the templates are often voted on without any in-depth discussion that would reflect the impact. The council is therefore seen by representatives of all groups as being of little relevance and, above all, of little importance in the formulation and implementation of interests. This assessment could change, however, if more and more competencies are transferred to the universities or if the strict density of state regulations, which the council provides as another professor-dominated body, is dismantled. Initiatives that could increase its importance for the handling of group political disputes and discussion processes are, for example, the Berlin election model.


In line with the general tendency to weaken academic bodies in favor of a hierarchical structure, the abolition of the council is planned. Their function is then taken over by the Senate, the Extended Senate or by other (external) bodies such as the university councils or a foundation board. Approaches such as the equal composition, which are attached to the model of a university of teachers and students, are thereby counteracted. In addition, the transition to other committees usually also results in a shift to committees with a stronger professorial majority.

Contrary to this trend, however, in the context of the planning for new university laws, the requirement of a double qualified majority or a transition to a voting system instead of the fixed voting system is being discussed. This could relativize the tendency to reduce student influence and membership rights at the university. The councils have already been dissolved in Saxony, Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt.

The deletion of the organizational regulations from the HRG, as planned in the coalition agreement, also calls into question the principle of collegial bodies with the system of the group university . This coincides with the tendency to apply governance principles in universities that correspond to companies. Councils as an expression of university autonomy will no longer be to be found in the university law in Thuringia under these conditions and accordingly known intentions. A corresponding draft law was published in December 2005. The announcement of these plans triggered strong resistance from the student representatives concerned. Likewise promoting the disappearance of the councils, changes in the legal nature of the universities could also have an effect if they are set up as institutions or foundations.


  • Werner Hoffacker: The University of the 21st Century: Service Company or Public Institution? Dissertation. University of Bremen 1999. Luchterhand, Neuwied 2000, ISBN 3-472-04372-5 .
  • Andreas Keller: University reform and university revolt. Dissertation. University of Marburg. BdWi, Marburg 2000, ISBN 3-924684-91-X .
  • Werner Thieme: German University Law. 3. Edition. Heymann, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-452-24763-5 , Rn. 1015-1018.
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on April 22, 2006 .