Higher Education

, Volume 63, Issue 1, pp 33–52 | Cite as

The impacts of new governance on teaching at German universities. Findings from a national survey

  • Uwe WilkesmannEmail author
  • Christian J. Schmid


In this article we will present findings from a national survey questioning the actual impact of the new governance structures at German universities on academic teaching. To begin with, we give a theoretical underpinning to the economization of higher education institutions (HEIs) according to Principal-Agent Theory. This allows for the development of hypotheses about the influence of new selective incentives (merit pay, performance-related budgeting, Management by Objectives, teaching awards) on the professors’ academic teaching behavior. Instructed by critical considerations on Principal-Agent Theory we extended the axiomatics of this economic theory by incorporating concepts like work task motivation and academic socialization for a supposedly more comprehensive explanation. Data from a nationwide German survey allows us then to test our theory-driven assumptions. Our target population was the entire collectivity of all professors at German universities from which we could draft a sample 8,000 individuals. An estimation of four different OLS-regression models shows that the hypotheses derived from Principal-Agent Theory must be rejected whereas the hypotheses based on motivational aspects and socialization processes can be confirmed. Based on our analysis we can conclude that for the status quo of implementation there are no direct influences of new selective incentives on the actual teaching performance whereas we have strong indications for altered mechanisms of enculturation in the field of universities. New Public Management (NPM) seems to produce a new breed of professors whose preferences and practice are conditioned by the imperatives evoked by this new managerialism.


Governance of universities Teaching motivation Selective incentives Motivation National survey 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dortmund University of Technology, Center for Continuing EducationDortmundGermany

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