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New HAW Hamburg president

'Drawing a picture of the future together.'

Prof. Dr. Ute Lohrentz took up her position as the new president of HAW Hamburg at the beginning of May. We talked with her about her initial days in office and her plans for the university.

Prof. Dr. Ute Lohrentz, HAW Hamburg president

'As university members, we are connnected by a multitude of values': President Prof. Dr. Ute Lohrentz in the foyer of the university building at Berliner Tor 5. 

With the passing of the torch on 28 April and your official entry into the position at the beginning of May, you've now taken over the office of your predecessor, Prof. Micha Teuscher. Prof. Lohrentz, which issues and tasks are on your agenda as president for the first few days and weeks?
My early days as president have been characterised by a fast pace. It feels as though I've gotten onto a fast-moving summer semester train on which I also have to get oriented at the same speed. At this fast pace, I'm having lots of meetings and in-depth conversations with university members and cooperation partners from academia, the City of Hamburg's administration, business and civil society which are helping to solidify my understanding of matters related to the university's development.

And what picture has emerged for you so far?
What is clear is the institutional impacts and the concerns of university members given the crises we've experienced, as well as the latter's expectations and wishes for the future stability and innovative development of HAW Hamburg. Even though as the former dean of the Faculty of Business and Social Sciences I already know many individual parts of the university well, there is still a lot to discover and absorb in a new way so that I have an overall picture.

At the meeting of the University Senate in March you introduced a strategy process for the university. Can you tell us about the central elements?
The strategy process is linked to many of the strategic ideas and considerations of university members, which they have developed particularly over the last two years as part of the 'A future without deficit' project. In recent weeks I've seen a great interest in being open to new values, innovative topics and more flexible structures. The creativity of these ideas has clearly shown me the university's potential and the desire for reorientation. We need to use these ideas and this impetus to design and develop a picture of what HAW Hamburg should look like in future.

Can you talk in more detail about these ideas?
HAW Hamburg should be a venue for sustainable transformation, from which our talents in teaching and research use their skills and solution-oriented approaches to influence the challenges and innovations of the future in a socially responsible way. Our university's new claim is 'HAW Hamburg. Because you can make a difference.' It succinctly captures exactly this quality and this attitude. As the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, we are a place of education where academic quality and practical relevance are interdependent, and where technological progress integrates sustainability and social innovation. As university members we are connnected by a multitude of values that make our commitment and our reach stand out.

How is the strategy process structured in concrete terms?
The first phase is already underway, in this summer semester. As I said, the train is moving quickly (laughter). To begin with, we're jointly bundling all the ideas from within the university and preparing them for the process-planning phase. On three workshop days in June and July we'll build on the ideas we have to date and the 'Concept for the future' to develop the strategic options for HAW Hamburg's future stability. This will be done together with the members of the university's governance bodies: the University Advisory Board, the University Senate, HAW Hamburg's Executive Board and faculty deans, the heads of the various administrative units, and the department heads.

In recent weeks I've seen a great interest in being open to new values, innovative topics and more flexible structures.

Prof. Dr. Ute Lohrentz, HAW Hamburg president

How will the strategy process proceed after that?
What is important to me is that the conclusions we draw from this process are supported and realised by all of us. This is why the second phase will include the participation of a strategic steering committee, the members of which will be selected by the university's governance bodies. In the third phase we will outline the comprehensive strategy and integrate the innovations and the necessary process steps into the structural and development plan, which always covers a five-year period – with the next one spanning from 2026 to 2030.

In addition to the strategic development of HAW Hamburg, you will also be focusing on the following topics: 'A future without deficit' – i.e. the financial situation – and the cyber-attack. How do you want to tackle these ongoing crises?
First, the strategic concept for the future, which the Executive Board prepared in recent months, has to be finalised. It is the basis for the upcoming negotiations with the Ministry of Science, Research, Equality and Districts. At the same time, there has to be a final decision on the fiscal consolidation efforts to be made in all areas of HAW Hamburg. The necessary spending cuts in the four faculties and the central university administration are, after all, cuts to service areas. They will need to lead to changes in the university's degree courses and the level of service provided by those units affected. I can observe a broad and committed responsibility on the part of university members to designing the changes in such a way that they do not impact or have as minimal an impact as possible on the quality of our course offerings, our research and transfer activities, and our performance in the university administration.

What is clear is that the future requires a reliable foundation within the administrative structures of HAW Hamburg and our IT infrastructure. Even though we are now transitioning from the acute crisis of the cyber-attack into a coping phase, there are still a lot of questions to resolve and decisions to be made about the rebuilding of the IT infrastructure. In this respect, I see a broad and professional level of expert knowledge at our university, together with innovative energy. This is a good basis for reaching targeted and coordinated structural decisions. Following the departure of Wolfgang Flieger, the outgoing head of administration and finance, the university's ability to function in these times of fiscal consolidation planning is in the hands of the acting head of administration and finance, Albert Asal, in whom I have complete confidence.

To close, let's brave a thematic look ahead: The current summer semester has roughly 17 weeks left. What would you like to see achieved by the end of the semester if everything goes smoothly?
At the end of this summer semester, we've reached three important milestones together for the development of HAW Hamburg over the next three years. First, through a participatory process, HAW Hamburg has agreed on a strategy planning process for how it will recast its medium- to long-term strategy over the coming year. In doing so, it has integrated the strategic input of its members on moving towards the more flexible organisation of teaching and focused profile-building for its academic and research areas. It has also used the efficiency of its administrative organisation and other service areas as a source of orientation and innovation. Second, on 22 June, HAW Hamburg has elected the vice presidents for its next Executive Board – whose term begins on 1 September 2023. And third, by the end of the summer semester HAW Hamburg has stabilised the rebuilding of its centralised and decentralised IT structures enough that it is possible for winter semester 2023/24 to begin with a secure teaching, research and administrative data environment.

Interview: Anke Blacha/Matthias Echterhagen