How Does Hochschulpolitik Work?

University politics (Hochschulpolitik) generally describe all political processes and decisions that affect the university (higher education institutions). University policies include a wide range of topics that affect us as students to varying degrees. For example, discussions about budget cuts at the university, compulsory attendance in lectures and seminars, or the working conditions of university staff are all part of university politics. Many different actors are involved in these processes.
For us students, the Faculty Student Councils (Fachschaftsräte) and the Student Council (StuRa) are particularly important, because they are elected annually by the student body and tasked with representing our interests towards the university’s Rectorate and other bodies.

However, university politics can be quite complicated and for many students it is not easy to keep track of all the relevant bodies and processes. That’s why we have compiled the most important information about university politics in Germany in general and specifically at the University of Halle on this page. Another overview (so far only in German), including a useful glossary on university politics, can be found on the How-To-HoPo page of the Student Council (StuRa).

Übersicht

University Policy in Germany

In order to better understand university politics, it is important to know that the political field of education in Germany is largely a matter for the federal states. This is even anchored in the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz) and means in concrete terms that the respective federal states themselves are responsible for their own education policy and thus also for a large part of the political decisions that affect higher education institutions.
In Saxony-Anhalt, for example, the state government is responsible for the basic funding of the University of Halle and all other higher education institutions within its borders and regulates the legal basis for the general organisation of higher education in the state’s Higher Education Act (Landeshochschulgesetz).

The interests of students at German universities are represented by self-organised bodies. These are called either General Student Committees (AStA) or Student Councils (StuRa). The members of these bodies are elected by the student body, but there are different methods of composition (e.g. indirect election via a student parliament, composition from representatives of the Faculty Student Councils or via a majority voting system). Their task is to represent the students of their respective university externally, i.e. for example towards the Rectorate and the professorate, but also towards the federal state government. They also usually offer their respective student bodies various services, such as free legal and social advice or financial support for events. In many federal states, there are also associations of student representatives from several universities that work for the interests of all students in their respective state. In Saxony-Anhalt, for example, this is done by the Saxony-Anhalt Student Council Conference (SRK St).

Political Student and University Bodies at the University of Halle

At the University of Halle, there are many different bodies that pursue university policy. While student bodies are made up exclusively of students, the members of the university bodies belong to different status groups: university teachers (professors), academic staff, students and other staff. The whole system of bodies, their areas of responsibility and relationships to each other, is quite complicated and not so easy to understand. For a better understanding, the Student Council (StuRa) has created this graphic overview (English version in progress).

Here you can find more detailed information on the areas of responsibility and the specific composition of these bodies.

The Student Council (StuRa)

The Student Council (StuRa) at the University of Halle consists of elected members of the constituted student body. Its main task is to represent student interests towards other university bodies, the university administration and the public.

In addition, the StuRa offers a range of different services to support students. These include free legal advice, the allocation of social loans and job placement, as well as (financial) support for student projects.

The members of the Student Souncil elect spokespersons (Sprecher*innenkollegium) from their midst, who take care of the day-to-day business of the StuRa. There are a total of nine speakers: Two presiding spokespersons (contact persons for internal and external enquiries to the Student Council), two spokespersons for finances (responsible for the student body budget), two spokespersons for social affairs (first contact persons for students in social matters, allocate social loans) as well as the spokesperson coordination (support for cooperation between Faculty Student Councils and working groups with each other and with the Student Souncil).

In addition, the members of the Student Council elect six special advisors (Referent*innen) who, however, may not be members of the StuRa themselves. They are therefore not bound to the term of office of the Student Council, but work for an unlimited period of time and deal with special topics. There is a Referat for internal University and Education Policy, one for external University and Education Policy, one for International Matters, one for Sports and Health, one for Events and one for Social Affairs.

The Student Council also includes several working groups that deal with specific topics independently. Their members are not elected, so anyone who is interested can participate. Only the spokesperson of the respective working group must be confirmed by the Student Council. The Arbeitskreis Internationales is one of the current ten working groups of the Student Council.

The Faculty Student Councils (FSRs)

The Faculty Student Councils (Fachschaftsräte) are the decision-making bodies of their respective faculty student community. Their main task is to represent the interests of the students of a faculty. They are all-student bodies and their number of members depends on the size of the respective faculty student community.

They provide assistance with study-specific issues and advocate for student concerns to university committees and faculty chairs. They also manage the student body funds allocated to them and support initiatives such as lecture series, cultural projects or seminar trips.

Faculty Student Councils can also form Student Departmental Groups (Institutsgruppen). These take care of subject-specific concerns of the students of a specific institute within a faculty and represent their interests towards the Faculty Student Council or other university bodies. However, their members are not elected, so anyone who is interested can become active in their own departmental group.

A tip: Many Faculty Student Councils and also some Student Departmental Groups at the University of Halle can be found on Instagram and/or Facebook and publish current and useful (often subject-specific relevant) information there.

The Senate

The Senate is the highest university body and consists of 12 university lecturers, four academic staff members, four students and other full-time staff members. The representatives are elected from their respective member groups, students for one year at a time.

The tasks of the Senate are regulated in the Higher Education Act (Landeshochschulgesetz) and include, among other things, the resolution of university statutes, consultation on the university development plan, consultation on the budget and the adoption of regulations for the administration and use of the university institution.

The Senate also elects the Rectorate, which runs the university. It consists of the Rector as Chairperson, the Prorectors (up to three professors with specific areas of responsibility) and the Chancellor (Head of the Central University Administration). The Rectorate can create so-called Rectorate Commissions for specific focal points of its own choosing; for example, there is currently an Commission for Internationalisation. But be careful: Rectorate Commissions should not be confused with Senate Commissions, which are formed by the Senate to advise, prepare and support its own work.

The Faculty Councils

The Faculty Councils are the self-governing bodies of their respective faculty. A faculty council decides on all matters of the faculty that do not fall within the dean’s area of responsibility. It also issues study and examination regulations, makes appointment proposals and coordinates research projects.

Elected representatives of the various status groups sit on Faculty Councils. Most Faculty Councils consist of 12 university lecturers (including the respective dean), four research assistants, four students and two other full-time staff members. The term of office for student members is limited (as in the Senate) to one year.

Political Student Groups

Student members in political bodies in the university context often hold different positions and contrasting political views. This is because many of the students running in the university elections are part of a political student group. Politically committed and motivated students organise themselves in these groups to advocate for their shared interests. Some of the political student groups are close in content to the political positions of corresponding German parties.

The following political student groups are currently active at the University of Halle:

EURE Liste (EULi)
EURE Liste (EULi)
Focal points: Strengthening student participation and influence at the university, for the use of student financial resources exclusively for student concerns, digitalisation
Grüne Hochschulgruppe (GHG)
Grüne Hochschulgruppe (GHG)
Close to BÜNDNIS90/DIE GRÜNEN, Focal points: Feminism, anti-discrimination, sustainability
Juso-Hochschulgruppe
Juso-Hochschulgruppe
Close to SPD, Focal points: Solidarity at the university, equal opportunities for all students
Liberale Hochschulgruppe (LHG)
Liberale Hochschulgruppe (LHG)
Close to FDP, Focal points: Freedom and digitalisation
Offene Linke Liste (OLLi)
Offene Linke Liste (OLLi)
Focal points: Left-wing and emancipatory policies, sufficient financing of the education institutions, strengthening student interests, equality & inclusion
Ring Christlich-Demokratischer Studenten (RCDS)
Ring Christlich-Demokratischer Studenten (RCDS)
Close to CDU, Focal points: As few requirements as possible for the individual organisation of studies, against gender-sensitive language, for lowering the semester fee
Students for Future
Students for Future
Close to the Fridays For Future movement, Focal points: Restructuring of teaching and research with focus on solution-oriented climate research, climate justice and sustainability

University Elections

At the University of Halle, various political student and university bodies and committees are elected at regular intervals. You can find an overview of all internal university elections here (German only). Before 2020, all elections were held in person. Eligible voters could cast their vote on a fixed day in the polling station of their respective electoral area (for students, depending on their degree programme). However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only online elections were held in 2020 and 2021. Within a fixed election period of several days, all eligible voters could cast their vote via an individualised and temporarily valid link on the university’s online election portal. More about how online voting works, as well as the latest information on the next university election, can be found on the university’s website and on the university election information page of the Student Council (StuRa) (both only in German).

Elections to the Student and University Bodies

The elections to the student and university bodies are used to elect the members of the university and student bodies, i.e. the Senate and Faculty Councils as well as the Student Council (StuRa) and Faculty Student Councils (see the overview of political student and university bodies). Students elect their representatives to all bodies for a term of one year. That’s why we have a university election every year (usually in the summer semester).

All student members who are enrolled at the University of Halle may vote in the elections for the Senate and the Faculty Councils.

Only students who are members of the student body may vote in the Student Council and Faculty Student Council elections. As a rule, these are all students enrolled at the University of Halle and students at the Landesstudienkolleg Halle. This is because they pay the student body fee with their semester contribution and can thus use the advisory services of the Student Council and elect their representatives to the Student Council and their respective Faculty Student Council. Withdrawal from the student body takes place if it is declared by the students themselves.

All student members who are enrolled at the University can run for the Senate and the Faculty Councils.

Only students who are members of the student body (see “Who can vote?”) can run for the Student Council and Faculty Student Council elections.

It is important to note that an official election proposal must be submitted in order to stand for election to both the university and student bodies. There are specific forms for this, which must be submitted to the respective election committee by the deadline. The nomination must also be signed by at least three members of the relevant electoral group, i.e. at least three students entitled to vote must support the candidacy of a fellow student with their signature. Only if the nomination is formally correct and submitted by the deadline will the name of the candidate appear on the ballot paper.

The up-to-date forms are usually available shortly after the announcement for the upcoming elections. So if you are interested in running for election, keep an eye on the university website (for Senate and Faculty Council elections) and the university election information page of the Student Council (for Student Council and Faculty Student Council elections).

Unfortunately, the forms are only available in German at the moment, but we are working to have them translated into English as soon as possible.

Many of the students running in the university elections are part of a political student group. They represent different political positions, which you can find out about online on their respective websites or on their social media channels (see our overview of political student groups at the University of Halle). In the weeks leading up to the next university election, they usually publish an overview or an election programme with their specific priorities and goals.

In order to better compare the different positions of the political student groups standing for election, the Student Council (StuRa) has been compiling an Wahl-O-Mat for every university election since 2019. It allows you to compare your own opinion with the standpoints of the political student groups. You can choose from a selection of theses and decide which position you take on them. Based on your answers, you will receive an overview of which political student groups you agree with the most (and which you agree with the least). The StuRa always publishes the latest Wahl-O-Mat shortly before each university election (→ Twitter, → Instagram, → Facebook).

The StuRa also traditionally organises the Löwenrunde (Lion’s Round) before the annual university elections. It is a public discussion event where students who are standing as candidates (usually representatives of the political student groups) have the opportunity to present their positions and election promises. In this way, eligible voters can get to know the different points of view on university policy and ask questions. Since 2020, the Löwenrunde has also been broadcast online as a livestream on the StuRa platforms.

Elections of the Equal Opportunities Representatives

In addition to the elections to the student and university bodies, the elections of the equal opportunities representatives are of particular importance for students. The members of the equal opportunities offices are elected every two years: There is one office for the entire university, the faculties and other institutions (ZUV, ULB, central academic institutions and other areas not assigned to a faculty). Persons of any gender may stand for election, provided they are members or employees of the University of Halle. However, only female members of the University (i.e. all female employees as well as female students) are eligible to vote in the elections of the Equal Opportunities Representatives. If you would like to learn more about what the University Equal Opportunities Office does: This video (German only) presents its work in more detail.