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German Research Institute for Public Administration

Educational background of national public servants between domestic specificity and European homogenisation

This project connects the different approaches of EU member states regarding EU law- as well as their different perceptions and execution of national leeway - to the different educational systems that future executives of general internal administration have to pass through.

Insofar, it could be supposed that in member states in which these educational systems cover relatively little (EU) legal topics, focusing instead on management issues, future executives will be more willing to max out national leeway than in member states, wherein the educational emphasis is on legal constraints on administrative action. Hence, the project aims to analyze the content of administrative education. This analysis will test how the existence of specific educational content (like the aforementioned European versus specific skills focuses) influences the exercise of leading positions in a European and international context. The analysis will emphasize on the curricula of the relevant academic programs in order to capture on the educational background of the future administrative elite. The description of the curricula allows also further conclusions regarding the system's underlying conceptions of administration and "administrative culture".

Moreover, the international comparative analysis of the educational background pursues other aims. First, in a descriptive manner, the project will test if the administrative traditions found in other studies reflect and are influenced by the educational contents, or if there is an increasing convergence due to the inclusion of common European contents. Second, the academic curricula will be compared with those educational aspects that administrative recruits consider particularly relevant, thereby deriving suggestions for educational improvements.

For the research, the project will first identify the educational backgrounds of administrative executive recruits. For this, various research results already exist upon which to draw. Building on this first research step, the curricula of the relevant academic programs will then be analyzed in an international comparative manner. Here, the project will tie in with an earlier study conducted in the context of the EU-supported "Thematic Network for Public Administration". Finally, the quantitative results will be complemented by qualitative interviews with selected representatives of the executive recruits, with questions exploring their educational backgrounds as well as the contents that they consider particularly important.

The identification of relevant educational contents is complex. Thus, the project will initially be limited to a small number of countries and academic programs. Specifically, theoretical considerations based on the clusters found by Hajnal (2003) and the language skills of the institute members suggest a focus on Germany (legal tradition), France (public tradition), and Great Britain (corporate tradition). In the medium-term, the project plans to extend the analyses to further countries and academic programs by applying for third-party funds.
The project is innovative because it goes beyond the current state of research in three ways: First, the existing analysis of the aforementioned thematic network project will be updated allowing for a temporal comparison and showing the impact of the Bologna-reform and recent developments within the European academic sector. Second, the inclusion of Germany (which was not a part of the earlier project's analysis) provides an important addition. Third, the combined and comparative analysis of education and (European) careers is able to provide some initial (albeit tentative) hints regarding possible reasons for the oft assumed German under-representation in international administrative affairs.

The project moves between the two poles of fundamental research and practical application. It will thereby provide contributions to administrative and academic research as well as to the practice of administrative education. The research is narrowly attached to the other projects within this thematic field and considers itself as a complementary addition to them.

Based on the research results, the project will provide practical recommendations for improving the initial and further education of German public service executives in order to make them more "Europe-qualified". This goal will also be ensured through involving of ministerial experts from the states and federation (who are responsible for the initial and further education of German executives). These persons will be identified by the German Research Institute for Public Administration and will constitute a "project advisory board".

Senior Fellow

Prof. Dr. Michael Hölscher



Dr. Michael Gräf