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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Administration and governance at local and/or institutional level


2.Organisation and governance

2.7Administration and governance at local and/or institutional level

Last update: 26 March 2024

Administration and government at local level

Pre-school institutions

Overall responsibility for pre-school establishments at local level lies with the youth welfare offices, the responsibility for the organisation of specific educational work in day-care centres for children (Kindertageseinrichtungen) lies with the maintaining bodies. A special feature is the bipartite nature of the youth welfare office (Jugendamt), in which the tasks of the youth welfare office are performed jointly by the administration and the youth welfare committee (Jugendhilfeausschuss). The youth welfare committee ensures the  involvement of local civil society in fundamental issues of further development of child and youth welfare.

School administration

Public-sector schools are, for the most part, state/local authority schools maintained jointly by the Land and the Kommunen (local authorities) or administrative districts. The cost of the teaching staff is borne by the Land and other staff or material costs are borne by the local authority. The local authorities or administrative districts, which are responsible for the establishment and maintenance of schools and supply them with financing, are described as Schulträger, or school maintaining bodies.

Schools with a catchment area extending beyond the local authority area, e.g. schools offering specialised education in artistic subjects or sport, certain Fachschulen and sonderpädagogische Bildungseinrichtungen (special schools) are in the majority of cases state schools, i.e. they are maintained by a Land, which bears the complete staffing and material costs. In some Länder, there are also local authority schools that are established by the local authorities and, in terms of the costs of teaching staff and material costs, are supported solely by them.

In-company vocational training institutions

At the local level, the self-administrative organisations of the economy (chambers of industry and commerce, chambers of handicraft, chambers of agriculture, chambers representing the liberal professions) are responsible for consulting and supervising in-company vocational training and for intermediate and final examinations in accordance with legislation.

At the training companies the elected representatives of the employees have a say in the planning and conduct of in-company vocational training and the appointment of trainees and instructors.

Administration and government at institutional level

Early childhood education and care

Early childhood education includes all institutions run by the non-public and public child and youth welfare services which cater for children from the age until the age of six at which they usually start school.

For children from the age of three years until they start school, the Kindergarten is the traditional form of institutionalised early childhood education in Germany. Responsibility for the individual Kindergarten lies with the maintaining bodies (e.g. churches, welfare associations, local authorities, parents associations etc.).

For children under three, day-care centres for children offer unmixed crèche groups and also some mixed age groups.

Supervision and care offered by childminding services is aimed primarily at the target group of children under three years of age. Childminders are, as a rule, self-employed, but may also be employed by private bodies or the local authority.

Children in day-care centres in the early childhood education sector are looked after by trained educational staff and by supplement educational staff as well as graduates from corresponding professional and other Bachelor's, Master's and Magister study programmes. The trained educational staff include state-recognised Erzieher (pedagogic staff) and state-recognised Sozialpädagogen (graduate youth and community workers). Some Länder also have supplement educational staff who help trained educational staff in their work. These include nursery assistants and social assistants in particular. Day-care centres are generally headed by trained educational staff. Heads of the day-care centres also carry out some pedagogical group work.

Some of the staff (especially those in senior positions) have a professional qualifying degree from an institution of higher education. This training either comprises a three-year course of study at a higher education institution and one year of practical training or a four-year course of study with two Praxissemester (integrated semesters of work experience). Other academically-trained teaching staff include for instance childhood educators (Kindheitspädagogen). A variety of Bachelor study courses have now been established in this discipline.

Primary and secondary education

Schools are run by a head teacher, who bears a particular title ( e.g. Rektor). He or she is responsible for educational and pedagogical work in the school as a whole and at the same time is a member of the teaching staff. His/her responsibilities and duties are usually set out in the Education Act and in specific regulations for such posts. The head staff are required to cooperate closely with the teachers' conference and the Schulkonferenz (school conference) in so far as this is provided for in the primary sector by Land legislation. The head teacher, whilst being subject to the legal and administrative regulations of the school supervisory authority, is also authorised to issue instructions to the other members of the teaching staff and the non-teaching personnel within the framework of his duties relating to Dienstaufsicht (staff supervision) and Fachaufsicht (academic supervision).

It is the task of the head staff, in cooperation with all those involved in the school, to ensure the proper running of the teaching and educational work as well as school life, and in doing so to ensure the further development and improvement of the educational work. In doing so, it carries out the tasks assigned to it within the framework of the school's own responsibility and develops them responsibly and innovatively.

The school head has a particular responsibility for quality development and for managing change processes in the individual school. It assumes this responsibility together with the school supervision authorities and the support systems and institutions of the Länder.

In detail, the head teachers' duties include the following:

  • Unless this has been entrusted to other staff members, they work out the details of the weekly timetable, supervision and stand-in schedules, endeavouring to ensure that all teachers have about the same workload. They keep track of standards in the various classes by sitting in on lessons and inspecting written work so as to ensure uniform marking standards.
  • They are responsible for monitoring all pupils' school attendance and ensuring compliance with the Schulordnung (school regulations) and the health protection and accident prevention regulations.
  • They represent the school vis-à-vis outside bodies and individuals, notably the Schulträger (maintaining authority) and the general public. They may require outsiders (sales representatives, traders etc.) to leave the premises in order to avoid disruptions of normal school life.
  • They conduct the school's external affairs (e.g. purchase of teaching materials) in close cooperation with the Schulträger (the authority maintaining the school) and are bound by its instructions in this field.
  • During the past years, the scope of duties of the head teacher has expanded due to measures for the legal autonomisation of schools. As such, the right and/or the obligation of the schools to pass, implement and evaluate specific Schulprogramme (school-specific programmes) has brought about new duties for the head teacher. As part of securing the quality of the lessons, the head teacher is additionally responsible for lesson development, staff development and organisational development as well as for the planning of further training, staff management and, where applicable, for the administration of budgetary funds.

Whenever the head teacher is prevented from carrying out his functions, all these duties become the affair of the deputy head. In some Länder, the Kommunen (local authorities) as the maintaining bodies are involved in the appointment of the head teacher in that they are granted the right to make proposals or asked to give their opinion. For the qualifications required for application see the section on management staff for early childhood and school education.

The head teacher generally chairs the conference where all teachers from the whole school meet to discuss matters of shared interest (Lehrerkonferenz), which he or she both convenes and presides over. The principle of shared staff responsibility for education and teaching applies in all Länder.

To support the head staff, organisational and administrative tasks (e.g. planning the school timetable, taking charge of the school library) can be transferred to individual teachers. In addition, the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Land concerned appoints teachers as consultants for individual subject areas, whose job is to advise and support schools, teachers and officials of the school supervisory authority. The classroom hours of these teachers are reduced to allow them to carry out their management functions or administrative and consultative functions.

Tertiary education

The organisation and administration in higher education institutions essentially falls within the remit of the Länder. Basically, if necessary, with deviation in individual cases depending on the respective Land higher education act, higher education institutions are organised and administered as follows: Higher education institutions are governed either by a rector (or rector's body) or else by a president (or presidential body). The rector is elected from among the group of professors belonging to that institution, or selected from among external applicants. Anyone who has completed higher education and has the necessary career experience, notably in academic affairs or administration, may be nominated as a rector or president. Alongside the rector or president, higher education institutions have a chancellor who is the most senior administrative officer and is responsible for the budget.

The basic organisational unit at higher education institutions is the department (Fachbereich), in some Länder also known as faculty (Fakultät). Without impinging on the responsibility of the composite central bodies (Kollegialorgane), it performs the duties of the higher education institution that fall within its remit. The Fachbereich is responsible for ensuring that its members and scientific establishments are able to carry out the functions entrusted to them. The Fachbereich council is responsible for all research and teaching issues. It is chaired by the Dekan (dean), who is elected from among the professors of the department. Under recent laws the dean of a Fachbereich exercises a right of supervision and instruction over the professors of the department with regard to the fulfilment of teaching and examination commitments.

Higher education institutions adopt their own statutes, or Grundordnungen (basic constitutions) which, as a rule, are subject to the approval of the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of Science and Research of the Land in which they are situated. Depending on the law of the respective Land, decisions on the basic constitution and the election of the governing board of the higher education institution are taken by the senate of the higher education institution, the higher education council or the board of trustees, or a second composite central body (Konzil – Council, Konvent – Convention, Großer Senat – Full Senate, Versammlung – Assembly) in which representatives of the higher education institution, including members of staff and students, collaborate.

Organisation and administration of the state-run Berufsakademien are not subject to the provisions of the Framework Act for Higher Education or the Higher Education Acts of the Länder, but are subject to the Berufsakademie laws of the Länder. Accordingly, the state-run Berufsakademien are predominantly managed by a board of trustees, expert committees and the director of the Studienakademie (study institution) offering the theoretical component of training.

Internal consultation

The teachers' conference

One of the bodies of participation in the school sector is the teachers' conference (Lehrerkonferenz) in which the teaching staff takes decisions on instruction and education, taking care not to encroach on the freedom of the individual teacher to hold his or her lessons as he or she thinks fit. The term teachers' conference applies to the full conference, composed of all the teachers in a particular school, as well as to smaller conferences, made up, for example, of teachers from a particular department or responsible for one single class. It is one of the tasks of the teachers' conference to select textbooks from the lists of textbooks approved by the Ministry. In addition, the teachers' conference is also responsible for deciding on individual disciplinary measures, up to and including expulsion, in conflict situations. In several Länder, parents' (and sometimes pupils') representatives have a right to make their views known and take part in the deliberations of such bodies. They are not, however, as a rule, permitted to take part in discussions and decisions on what marks to award in certificates or whether pupils should or should not be moved up to the next school grade. In some Länder, parents’ and, as the case may be, pupils’ representatives have an advisory vote in conferences deliberating on certificates and/or on whether or not pupils should be moved up to the next grade. In the full conference, where all teachers from the whole school meet, it is generally the head teacher who presides over the conference and is responsible for the implementation of any decisions.

School conference

Besides the teachers’ conference, the Schulkonferenz (school conference) generally exists as an additional organ governing cooperation between the head staff and teachers, pupils and parents as well as external cooperation partners, if applicable. It is constituted in different ways in the individual Länder. Sometimes teachers, parents and pupils are represented in equal numbers in the school conference, and sometimes teachers and/or parents are more strongly represented. The school conference is either chaired by the head of the school or by a member elected by the conference.

School conferences have different consulting rights and rights to participation in the various Länder. The Länder Education Acts contain different sets of objectives for the school conferences, but these do not represent hard and fast regulations. In most cases the Schulkonferenz is involved in the following areas:

  • Organisation of school life and teaching: school regulations and disciplinary rules, lessons and breaks, allocation of classrooms
  • Pupils' protection: road safety provisions for children on their way to and from school, school transport and prevention of accidents on the school premises
  • Organisation of events outside school, but under school supervision, e.g. school partnerships and stays at residential facilities in the country, visits to factories and museums etc., school rambles

The school conference may also deal with general educational and teaching questions, e.g. the suitability of textbooks, classwork and homework requirements and the standards for the award of the different marks. The conference has the power to reach binding decisions on such matters as homework supervision, pupils' workgroups and the holding of pilot projects. In some Länder it also discusses and approves, or rejects, the organisation of the school in its present form, its division, relocation or merger with another school and construction projects as well as the school furnishings and equipment. Finally, corrective and disciplinary measures in conflict situations and counselling for parents and pupils may be dealt with.

In some Länder, the school conference has a say in the selection of the head teacher. The authority it enjoys in this respect varies between the Länder, from the right to propose a head teacher to the right to reject a particular choice. For legal reasons, however, it is the school's supervisory authority which actually appoints the head teacher.

Pupils' participation

The Länder Education Acts and school participation laws recognise pupils' basic right to participation and regulate the make-up and responsibilities of the pupils' representative body. Pupils elect pupil representatives from their forms or year groups to look after their interests in accordance with the principle of representation. Pupil representatives together make up the pupil parliament (Schülerparlament, also known as the Schülerrat or Schülerausschuss). This body elects one or more pupil spokespersons for the whole school. In some Länder the pupil representatives are elected directly by all pupils. At local authority (Kommunen), town or district level, they are usually organised into local-authority, town or district pupil parliaments (Gemeindeschülerrat, Stadtschülerrat, Kreisschülerrat) and at Länder level into Länder pupil councils (Landesschülerrat). The school and the school supervisory authorities may not usually influence the choice of pupil representatives.

As well as the pupil representation organs, Land Education Acts or school constitution acts also provide for general assemblies of pupils (Schülervollversammlungen) either from the entire school or from different levels of the school, where it is intended that all pupils in a school or particular level of that school exchange opinions and hold talks or discussions.

Internal consultation in the tertiary sector

Institutions of higher education have a constitutionally guaranteed right to academic selfadministration. Under the Framework Act for Higher Education (Hochschulrahmengesetz – HRG) and the Länder laws governing higher education, all members of a higher education institution, i.e. all those whose main employment is at the institution and all matriculated students, are involved in the decision-making process. One or two composite central bodies are constituted to govern cooperation between the governing board of the institution and the members of that institution. For the purpose of their representation in bodies of participation, the following each form a group of their own:

  • the professors
  • the students
  • academic staff
  • the other staff members

The group allocation of doctoral candidates is regulated differently in the higher education laws of the Länder. The type and scope of participation of the groups in the higher education bodies depend on the qualifications, functions and responsibilities of the parties involved and who the decisions affect. It is the professors who have the majority of votes in those bodies composed according to the various types of members that have the power of decision-making on research, artistic development programmes and the appointment of professors. Professors have at least half of the votes in matters regarding teaching, with the exception of evaluation.

Depending on state legislation, students elect student representatives or form student bodies. Depending on the legal structure of their tasks and responsibilities, the student bodies or student representations are responsible for representing the political, social and cultural interests of students in higher education, for maintaining supra-regional and international student relations and for representing student interests in relation to the tasks of thehigher education institutions. In the student representations, the students participate through their elected representatives in the university bodies in accordance with the statutory provisions. The bodies of the student representation, their responsibilities and composition as well as the details of the election procedure, the meeting and the passing of resolutions are regulated within the higher education institution.

These student bodies, of which each student automatically becomes a member upon matriculation, are self-administrative. They are represented by the student parliament (Studierendenparlament) and the General Student Committee (Allgemeiner Studierendenausschuss – AStA) at most institutions of higher education. Both are elected by the students. The Studierendenvertretung or Studierendenschaft is subject to the Rechtsaufsicht (legal supervision) of the governing body of the higher education institution. At the level of the Länder, there are also the student councils of the federal states (Landes-ASten-Konferenzen) and comparable associations or (in some cases legally regulated) state-wide student representations

Students also participate in teaching evaluation.

Participation of members in the administration and organisation of the Berufsakademien is regulated in the Berufsakademie laws of the Länder. Under these laws, the director of the Studienakademie (study institution), representatives of the teaching staff, the involved training establishments, and the students are represented in the various committees, where they have a say in both fundamental and subject-related issues, as well as in the matter of coordination between the study institution and the involved training establishments.

Consultation involving players in society at large

According to the Basic Law (Grundgesetz), the care and upbringing of children are a natural right of parents and a duty primarily incumbent on them (Art. 6, paragraph 2). However, the state keeps watch over the exercise of parental rights. The term parents refers to the respective persons who have parental power, i.e. those persons whom the care and custody of the child or young person has been conferred upon.

Consultation and participation in the pre-primary sector

In the field of early childhood education and care collaboration with parents is particularly important. Book Eight of the Social Code (Achtes Buch Sozialgesetzbuch  – Kinder- und Jugendhilfe) lays down that parents and legal guardians are to be involved in decisions on important matters relating to instruction, education and care (Section 22a paragraph 2). This is carried out inter alia through the establishment of parents’ councils (Elternbeiräte), which is regulated by Land law. Cooperation with the parents and legal guardians is also anchored in the education plans of the Länder. At the individual level the experts in the establishments are required to work together with the parents and legal guardians for the welfare of the children and to ensure the continuity of the education process. The concept of educational partnership (Bildungs- und Erziehungspartnerschaft) has therefore become firmly grounded in the professional debate.

In addition, different forms of cooperation have more recently been established between day-care centres for children and other family and child-related offers in the community with the aim of guaranteeing comprehensive support for children offering the best possible quality. One outcome of this is the further development of a growing number of day-care centres for children into family centres.

Parents' participation in the school sector

The state is fundamentally responsible for the schooling of children under Article 7, paragraph 1 of the Basic Law. However, the state's right to regulate the education of children at school is limited by parental rights to bring up their children, without it being possible to derive specific rights to a say and rights of participation from parental rights. However, the Länder are free to equip parents' councils with rights to participation.

Parents exercise their rights, on the one hand, individually and, on the other hand, collectively through parents' groups and their representatives on other consulting and decision-making bodies at schools. The rights to a say enjoyed by the parents of primary school pupils do not fundamentally differ from those afforded parents of secondary school pupils who have not yet reached their majority.

Each of the Länder has developed its own approach to participation at school, whereby the collective participation of parents at school level and inter-school level is regulated to varying degrees and in diverse manners in the constitutions of the Länder and in the Education Acts. It is generally the case, however, that parents have an opportunity to make their views felt at two levels, the lower level being the individual class (in bodies called Klassenelternversammlung or Klassenpflegschaft) and the upper level being the school as a whole (in the Schulelternbeirat or Elternvertretung). At a higher level we find regional parents' councils at the level of the local authority or district and, higher still, the representative organs at the Land level (Landeselternbeirat), sometimes organised according to the different school types. Finally, the representative bodies combine to form a single federal parents' council at national level (Bundeselternrat), in order to provide a forum for information for parents on developments in the field of education policy and to advise parents on school-related issues.

Other social groups involved in participation in the school sector

With the exception of vocational schools there are no provisions for individuals or institutions other than teachers, parents and pupils to have a say at the school level, be it individual classes or the school as a whole.

It is not until we reach the regional level or the Land level that representatives of business, the trade unions, the churches, local authority associations, institutions of higher education, youth associations and public figures are also involved in the decision-making process. These interest groups can exert influence on school affairs of general or fundamental importance at Land level, either through the permanent advisory committees (Landesschulbeiräte) or through legally regulated ad-hoc questioning. At the request of their members, however, such representatives may also be invited to attend meetings of lower-level bodies for information and advice.

The expansion of all-day school offers has significantly increased the trend towards involving external learning partners in the local school-based social and academic educational work.

External consultation in the tertiary sector

In order to support the management of the higher education institution in matters of basic relevance by means of external expertise, higher education councils (Hochschulrat) or boards of trustees (Kuratorium) have been established in almost all of the Länder and include personalities from the economy or scientists from other institutions. Depending on the law of the respective Land, these bodies can exercise a right of veto or participation in, for example, basic budgetary issues or decisions regarding the development plans of the higher education institution. As a rule, they also have an advisory function and make recommendations.

Participation and consultation involving players in the society at large in the sector of continuing education

Various forms of cooperation have evolved between continuing education institutions, organisations which maintain continuing education and social partners (local authorities and Länder authorities, companies, employers' and employees' representatives, chambers of industry and commerce and other self-governing organisations within industry). However, this does not affect the freedom of institutions to take decisions relating to the courses they organise or the teaching staff they select.