The development of quality higher education abroad

Changed university cultures
How does a supporting university culture similar to this one look like? The research team of Prof. Dr. Dieter Frey. (Department of Social Psychology, LMU) have tried to answer these questions in the recent years (Frey, D., Peus, C. & Traut-Mattausch, E. (2005)). As a good employer an excellent university has a value-oriented workplace and management culture, it creates an environment where the employees are motivated and it encourages and appreciates the professionals. According to the analysis the universities need to create so-called ’Centers of Excellence’. These centers can help the operation of other groups, departments and organizations. These centers are not stated by the law, but those universities where they are realized can have an advantage over the competitors.

„Center of Excellence”
 Let’s see what kind of ’Center of Excellence’ fields and cultures can appear at the universities.

Team culture
We need to create the cooperation culture of the university in order to stand out from the average. The positive team culture can be characterized with the ability of the organization to identify and use its own synergy. At an ideal place the departments and organizational units are created in a heterogeneous way and their work is completed according to common rules. This is an important principle, so the new employees should be selected in an appropriate way or a new research team should be set up. At a higher level, research teams based on multidisciplinary and organizational networks, departments, and even universities can join their forces, solve their problems and in this way they can also step forward. The innovative ability is essential in the cultures like this, and it can also overcome the boundaries of the conventional subjects. Moreover, it can give way to the new development.

Problem solving culture
The problem solving culture is an attitude to be able to understand that the problems are an opportunity to improve and a good way to innovation. This point of view is essential at the universities where the new ideas and research methods are not only based on the actual tenders, but also a search for a solution-oriented approach based on a planned system. According to this way of thinking the solutions must be advanced actively by the different organizational units in a way that they should not only identify the problems but also develop suitable solutions.

Creativity and learning culture
The problem solving culture can be closely associated with the creativity culture. Einstein once stated that his work is based on imagination. ’Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited.’ Creative work requires the employees to get the adequate trust and the opportunity to be able to try out new, unusual ideas. It is obvious that one should be involved in the principles of a university to be able to provide a field, to encourage the employees to be creative. It means that the mistakes are not punished but they are realized as the basis of development and innovation. The analysis of the reasons for malfunction can often bring a new point of view to the future development. This brings along a new learning culture, so that the teachers and students can get the courage to be confident and creative without putting too much emphasis on the mistakes

Management culture
One of the most important tasks of a ’Center of Excellence’ is the improvement of the management culture. This is a management model which is able to motivate the employees with the help of the following points:
  • Appropriate mediation of the visions
  • Intelligibility(information and communication) )
  • Autonomy and participation
  • Constructive feedback (praise and constructive criticism)
  • Fairness
  • Professional and social integration
  • Growth (self-improvement and future prospects)
  • Personal progress and decent working conditions
  • Management precedent(human and professional)

To sum up, we can say that the secret of success is the combination of an excellent management style with an intelligible performance requirement system and respect. The creation of such a management style is essential at the university for the employees to be able to make progress. So far several universities have not been able to step forward because the scientific leaders and professors have not been not familiar with these kinds of competences. In the following university examples it is obvious that at the places where the above cultures appeared an incentive atmosphere came into existence which motivated the prominent professionals, and they started to attract talented employees, teachers and top managers from the labour market as well.

One of the most important goals of the ’Centers of Excellence’ is that the university should provide the best conditions, the teachers can keep pace with the constant changes and they can also develop  their methodological and pedagogical and last but not least their human qualities. Let us have a look at three foreign universities, where the education and trainings are organized according to the principles mentioned above.

Quality improvement efforts at the University of Houston
The university was established in 1927. Its predecessor was the Houston Junior College (HJC). This university has become the most successful research and educational institution of the state. At present over 35000 students participate in the undergraduate and postgraduate trainings. The aim of the university is to attract students from all over the USA and the world with outstanding teachers. At the university they deal with the teachers and researchers based on a standardized system which includes several elements.

The statements of the handbook of the employees
During the analysis of the document which is known and followed by the teachers we could find a lot of references to the importance of teacher training. It is mentioned in the handbook that they improve the quality of the university education and culture with the help of experts.
The university operates according to 8 strategic principles (University of Houston - staff-handbook (2012)- page 8):
  • First strategic principle -University excellence
  • Second strategic principle– Student access to all of the university services
  • Third strategic principle – Appearance of diversity
  • Fourth strategic principle– Research support and involvement
  • Fifth strategic principle – External partnerships
  • Sixth strategic principle – Teacher quality
  • Seventh strategic principle– Partnership between universities
  • Eighth strategic principle- Responsibility and effectiveness
I would like to emphasize the sixth principle. According to this principle the teachers and the workers form the most valuable factor of the university. They need to be offered career opportunities which make the university more competitive than their counterparts. The concrete forms of realization are the following:

College program

The College Program is an educational opportunity for everyone and with the help of its teachers are encouraged to self-improvement. (University of Houston - staff-handbook (2012) – page 9) The program makes it possible for the employees to take part in any kind of university training, courses in connection with their work, thus they can make professional progress. 3 lessons per week can be used for this purpose. Registration is required.

Individual assistance
The university teachers are provided with the development of competences (personal, professional, innovative, communicational and cultural awareness) necessary for their jobs in the frame of trainings and interactive presentations. This is a strategic part of the performance assessment system of the university.

There is a performance management center where the teachers are helped to get to know the most important goals of the organization and they are encouraged to take part in it. The most important elements are the following:
  • The introduction of the university and department goals to the teachers
  • The introduction of performance goals and its measurement systems
  • Career and skill development of the employees
Once a year the above mentioned organizational units and the workers carry out a performance assessment,and state the aims of the following period.
Thinking the tasks over, there are a large number of services at the university which would be necessary at the domestic universities.

The development of the educational quality at the Duisburg-Essen University

Educatonal and organizational development services at the university
The learning and changing process of the employees is performed inside the university. They are carried out according to the needs of every participant, with individual or group methods. Important trainings and services. (Universität Duisburg-Essen – Personalentwicklung (2013)):

Figure 1: The chart of self-improvement of the university


Structured recruitment process
The personal decisions about a new employee are the most difficult and important decisions in the life of the university (Universität Duisburg-Essen - Das strukturierte Auswahlverfahren (2013)). The recruitment of the planned and well-qualified personnel is a prerequisite of the professional personal decisions. We can find an application of a structured recruitment here and it is always compulsory. The main phases of the process:
  • The elaboration of the measurement system belonging to certain jobs
  • The set-up of the recruitment committee (in the case of teachers there is always one person from the teacher-training department)
  • The announcement of the application
  • Structured interviews in front of the committee
  • Assessment and announcement of results
The training of new employees at the university
Similarly to the University of Houston each new employee gets to know the structure of the university, opportunities and further trainings with the help of e-curriculum and personal assistants. There is a webpage and 2-3 assistants at his/her disposal.

Mediation service for the employees
There is an opportunity for the employees and their leaders to communicate with each other with the help of a mediator in a protected environment. The service needs to be ordered two weeks in advance so that the mediator has enough time to prepare. He/she creates a suitable, calm atmosphere for the discussion and provides enough time to talk about different topics and problems.

Annual employee assessment
Similarly to the University of Houston the employees assess their work annually and they agree on the most important fields that are necessary for them to achieve their individual goals.

Development of the organizational units
All the changes taking place at the universities influence the life of the organizations. Therefore it is very important to organize team building trainings and support paying attention to the efficiency of the organizational units. Thus they can help the organizational units to become successful adapting to the constant changes.

Leadership support
The management has to face several complex tasks in all the fields of the university. To support it, the university provides different devices and methods.

Teacher coaching
There is a special helping support for the university teachers. They can use it to be able to handle their problems with the help of two experts. They must make an appointment at them electronically. Then they are given personal advice and development during the consultations.

Teaching and studying professionalization programs – Collaboration between the universities
The Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf and the Duisburg-Essen University offer one-year professional further trainings in cooperation with each other in order to develop university education. The participants of this training (belonging to different sciences and subjects) deal with expert counselling, the specialties of university education, the creation of learning programs and university development.

According to the introduced examples we can state that the basis of university development is the regular training of the employees. Without decent human resources development there is no chance to achieve good results in the international competition, so the students may look for other institutions. It can be stated that prosperous universities engage resources for the training of their workers. This is mostly true for the technological tertiary education institutions as here the outstanding teachers are attracted by excellent job opportunities from the labour market.

We can find out that the introduced institutions created similar, but country-specific structured educational systems. The central realizer organizational unit of this system is the university itself.

  • Frey, D., Peus, C. & Traut-Mattausch, E. (2005). Innovative Unternehmenskultur und professionelle Führung – entscheidende Bedingungen für eine erfolgreiche Zukunft? In D. Kudernatsch & P. Fleschhut (Hg), Management Excellence (351-376). Stuttgart: Schäffer-Poeschel.
  • Hochschuldidatik – Terminplan (2014) -
  • Molnár György: Collaborative Technological Applications with Special Focus on ICT based, Networked and Mobile Solutions WSEAS TRANSACTIONS ON INFORMATION SCIENCE AND APPLICATION 9:(9) pp. 271-281. (2012)
  • Universität Duisburg-Essen - Das strukturierte Auswahlverfahren (2013) -
  • Universität der Potenziale - Strategielinien zur Entwicklung der Lehre an der Universität Duisburg – Essen (2013) -
  • University of Houston - staff-handbook (2012)
  • The University of Houston’s Work/Life Program (2012) -


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