Technische Universität Berlin

The Science Manager

Kristin van Aaken manages to successfully combine career, family and, education. She is a scholarship holder in the part-time master´s degree in Science Marketing/Science Management

Kristin van Aaken has already completed part of her daily workload before arriving in the Examination Office at the Office of Student Affairs at Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin). Her four-and-a-half year-old son Julian is already at daycare and she has used her commute on the train from Bernau to study legal texts about the science system.

But there is a great deal of work still waiting for 33-year-old Kristin. To give her her full title she is a university administration chief inspector, and her areas of responsibility include study and examination regulations and coordinating statistical work. In addition to all this, she is also doing the part-time master´s degree in Science Management/Science Marketing run by TUBS GmbH (a fully owned subsidiary of TU Berlin).

An instrument for internal staff development

“My work at TU Berlin shows me that there are currently powerful changes occurring in academia and science,” she says, explaining her decision to focus on science management. “I would like to acquire the necessary skills and qualifications to better understand these developments and to be able to respond to them as well as help shape them.”

“The science system has become increasingly competitive in recent years,” says head of program, Dr. Wolfgang Merten. “This increases the need for well-qualified staff.”

The continuing education degree in Science Marketing was developed from 2005 onwards together with the Chair of Marketing led by Professor Dr. Volker Trommsdorff. Then in 2018 the program was extended through the inclusion of modules focusing on science management with the goal of responding to new dynamics in the science system by training staff for the ever more complex and changing requirements involved. The initiative to expand the program came from TU Berlin’s vice president for administration, Dr. Mathias Neukirchen, and vice president for strategic development, junior scholars and teacher education, Professor Dr. Angela Ittel.

Members of TU Berlin have the chance to apply for a scholarship

Mertens observes that the degree program equips staff to deal with this comparatively new and varied field of work whether they are involved in applying for or managing major EU projects: strategy and change management, higher education law and administration, project management and research and innovation management are some of the eight modules offered and studied in online and in-person phases.

During the in-person stages, TU Berlin staff in receipt of a scholarship are granted leave of absence. Twenty students start the program each year. A total of 350 students from all over the German-speaking world have graduated since 2005.

Combining career, family and education

Kristin van Aaken is currently writing her master´s thesis as one of the first intake in the new Science Management program. She will submit her thesis in June 2020. Van Aaken is a young mother with a clear idea of the career she wants to pursue. She keeps her eyes firmly on her goal.

She studied public management with a focus on law in Hamburg, where she also gained her first professional experience before moving to Berlin in 2013. In 2017 she participated in TU Berlin´s START program for young management. “As someone with a background in law, I really enjoy my job,” says Kristin van Aaken. Her work gives her a clear insight into developments in education and science policy, be it awards, honors, exam numbers or procedures for setting up degree programs.

As a result of her work, she wished to be involved in organization at a higher level. To qualify for senior positions, however, you need to have a master´s degree. So, she applied for the master´s program. “I realized just what a big challenge combining family life, career and continuing education is. So I am really grateful to my manager Jana Weber for all the support she has given me,” she says. It was also a stroke of good fortune that at this time TU Berlin took the decision to create a scholarship program to pay the costs for up to ten members of staff per year.

Master´s thesis in academic freedom

In her master´s thesis, Kristin van Aaken examines a topic of great current relevance that has been discussed for hundreds of years without losing any of its significance: academic freedom. Her focus is on the legal development of academic freedom, which has in turn been greatly influenced by developments in society.

Although the sentence from article 5 of the constitution “Art and science, research and teaching are free” has been taken more or less unaltered from preceding constitutional standards, changes have occurred over the course of time.

The questions she is examining include: How do single changes in laws and court decisions influence the interpretation of academic freedom? Where are the boundaries of freedom in science?

This particularly applies to universities where there are concerns about current discussions regarding freedom of speech and opinion. Are there clear distinctions between permitting freedom of opinion and the danger represented by the political instrumentalization of freedom?

“I need to understand more precisely why this legislation is so important for researchers, and I might even go on to do a doctorate in a related field,” she explains. “And I would really like to continue my career at TU Berlin.”

“By offering this scholarship, TU Berlin has introduced an important strategic staff development measure. Yes, it provides its staff with new skills and qualifications, but it also helps to strengthen their commitment to and identification with TU Berlin,” says Wolfgang Merten. Funding academic continuing education pays off. The experience of TUBS GmbH shows that the majority of graduates remain within the academic system.

TU Berlin remains first choice for Christin van Aaken and the University has grown very close to her heart through the various activities she is involved in. These include her work as a student member of the examination committee and helping organize campus tours for orientation events: “I am very happy to have this continuing education opportunity,” she says.

“I am already benefiting in my daily working life from the methods of strategic analysis, as well as courses in work management skills and staff management and communications.” Then she returns her attention to her work as she has a very busy schedule. She enjoys spending time at home with her husband and child and, in the little free time she has, a game of tennis.