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Call for Papers

Teaching in higher education has always been a balancing act between the demands of multiple groups. It is closely linked to decisions of varying quality and origin—and with good reason. Higher-education institutions are educational institutions: they serve to train and qualify students. This means that they also cater to professional and societal interests. At the same time, higher-education institutions are part of the research and higher-education system: they are charged with the task of generating scientific and scholarly knowledge and training the next generation of academics.


For students and teachers alike, higher-education institution are living environments designed to educate.

According to observations made by Ludwig Huber, an expert in higher-education didactics, in the 1980s, science and scholarship, academic practice, and the individual mark the boundaries of higher-education teaching, a field in which inevitably ambivalent and contradictory powers are at work.

Only a few years ago, the German Council of Science and Humanities (Wissenschaftsrat) advocated striking a balance between practical demands, such as preparing students for the employment market, academic demands, such as inducting students into particular disciplines, and individual needs, such as character  development, in every course of studies.

Sub-topics of the conference: the Tracks

  • Track 1 — Microlevel (teaching-learning situations/courses)
  • Track 2 — Mesolevel (degree and other programs)
  • Track 3 — Macrolevel (higher education/ political framework conditions)
  • Track 4 — Digitalization (on all levels)
  • Track 5 — Open Track

Shaping higher-education teaching in the face of such highly complex, conflicting priorities constitutes a challenge on various levels. It is as relevant on the microlevel of didactic activity, carried out by teachers in specific teaching-learning situations and events, as it is on the macrolevel of organizational and political decisions enacted by institutions to create suitable conditions for teaching and studying. The joint responsibility for shaping degree programs on the mesolevel emerges at the interface of the resulting individual and institutional responsibility. These challenges have another overlaying level in the form of societal transformation processes, such as digital transformation, which require both individuals and institutions to react in some form or other.

Levels of organizational activities

The fifteenth annual conference of the society for research on higher education (Gesellschaft für Hochschulforschung, GfHf) approaches this field of competing tensions productively and creatively. It works through antagonisms, ambivalences, paradoxes, and antimonies at all levels of activities that shape higher-education teaching. It facilitates discussion and casts a research-oriented, multidisciplinary gaze upon the topic.

Teaching in higher education has always been a balancing act between the demands of multiple groups. It is closely linked to decisions of varying quality and origin. The conference aims to illuminate the fact that research on HE teaching is as much part of the field of education research as academic research: it cannot be attained without interdisciplinarity.

Acceptable formats for submission


An abstract consisting of up to 500 words and stating the track to which it relates. Depending on the topic, the abstract should clearly state the research question and relevance, theoretical framework, methodological approach, and (expected) results.


On day one (9 am–5 pm), there will be three 75-minute sessions for presentations delivered in a discursive group format. Each 75-minute track comprises two presentations (between 20 and 25 minutes in length), each with a discussion of 10 to 15 minutes.


An abstract consisting of up to 800 words and stating the track to which it relates. The abstract should describe the joint concept of all presenters, outline the aims and relevance of the project, and explain its interactive format (including participation by students and doctoral researchers).


On day two (9 am–1:30 pm), a period of 90 minutes will be allocated to five to nine workshops held simultaneously in an interactive group format. Each workshop consists of two or three presentations of new ideas for up to 15 minutes, followed by at least 45 minutes of interactive group activity. We encourage bachelor’s students, master’s students and doctoral researchers to get involved in some way: as a target audience, as contributors to presentations, as discussion participants etc.


An abstract of up to 250 words. The abstract should give an outline of the (research) project to be presented on the poster, including its aim and (intended) approach/methodology.


The poster session is one of the plenum formats. Two keynote speakers will contribute important conference highlights. In addition, there will be a poster session (day one) and a debate. The latter will be organized as a series of three smaller-scale debates.

Contributions to any of the three formats may be submitted in either German or English.

Teilthemen der Tagung: Die Tracks

Track 1 — Microlevel (teaching-learning situations/courses)

Most teaching and learning activities at higher-education institutions take place in the context of structured courses. They can, however, occur in other learning environments within the institution. Relevant insights into and approaches to those other environments come from sub-disciplines such as psychological and pedagogical teaching and learning research and didactics. At the same time, contextual factors influence the practice of teaching and learning: for example, degree program structures, demands or restrictions in the higher-education institution itself, the make-up of the student body, etc. Contributions in this track explore the interplay between prerequisites, aims, demands, and/or interventions on the microlevel and pay attention to specific characteristics of and challenges facing higher education.

Track 2 — Mesolevel (degree and other programs)

The development of degrees and other higher-education programs has attracted a lot of attention over the past few years. Higher education didactics and research into higher education focus on the diverse expectations of academic studies formulated by interest groups in society and industry. There are plenty of contradictions surrounding this increased interest in what university study is supposed to deliver: it must simultaneously focus on research and career guidance, for instance, and ensure awareness of diversity. Contributions to this track delve into the interplay of aspects on the mesolevel; they explore the conditions, guiding principles, demands and/or instruments involved. In that, they engage with the disciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary demands affecting the development of degrees and other programs.

Track 3 — Macrolevel (higher-education/ political framework conditions)

Higher-education institutions are subject to continual change; changing framework conditions both within and outside of the institution have a direct influence on the way degree programs and courses are run. Disciplines such as sociology, economics, and the study of science and research are increasingly important as a result. Political demands and programs as well as micropolitical developments at higher-education institutions themselves shake up traditional ideas about “education through science and scholarship,” freedom in teaching and research, and/or the connection between research and teaching. Contributions to this track deal with tensions on the macrolevel. They concentrate on social, scientific, and higher-education policy developments, elucidating the effects these have on teaching and learning in higher education.

Track 4 — Digitalization (on all levels)

Digital transformation affects all levels and should be taken into consideration at each level. Due to the high relevance of the topic and the evident uncertainty accompanying it, however, an individual focus is justified. Digital technologies have long been an integral aspect of the microlevel, including technical tools and systems as well as innovative teaching formats. The creativity and versatility demonstrated at this level, however, is barely reflected in the forms of degree programs available at the mesolevel. Instead, there is a push for digitalization strategies and swift reactions on the macrolevel with its political and organizational frameworks that govern higher education. Contributions in this track characteristically focus on the tensions arising from digitalization. They may assume, for example, the perspective of informatics, educational science or cultural studies.

Track 5 — Open Track

The conference also welcomes contributions of outstanding importance to the study of higher education and research that are not directly related to any of the conference topics. We expect such contributions to relate to teaching in higher education in a more general sense.

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