Work Report 2021

Studierendenwerk Vorderpfalz

Not until the last canteen has closed;
only when the last university day-care centre closes;
not until the first Bachelor's thesis is written without a campus visit;
will you realise
that kids of helicopter parents studying from the parental wifi cloud can't be good leaders.

Andreas Schülke


Dear readers,

Managing Director Andreas Schülke
Managing Director Andreas Schülke
"the last two years we have looked deeply into our entrepreneurial future. Now it would also be nice to have the necessary peace and support to work on it effectively as well."

More communication at eye level in the university network!
2021 was a very challenging year with a lot of structural and personnel changes. A year - to be honest - that no one needed and that I had not expected after 2020. But 2021 had even more ups and downs than 2020. Of course, we tried again and again to turn it around positively and used the year to rethink our work and our viewpoints. Together with the Ministry, we are participating in a study on the future of student unions in Rhineland-Palatinate through the Institut für Hochschulentwicklung e. V. (Institute for Higher Education Development). Changing demands require the student unions to be adaptable. For the first time, the study deals seriously and at eye level with the student unions as an important partner in the university network. We are grateful for this. For the first time, we had the feeling that someone in politics was listening to us. After the Studierendenwerk's numerous submissions to the state politicians, it was about time. No one knows what the results will be yet, but an active and appreciative dialogue is always positive. As a student union, we will always be willing to engage in this process. 2021 has taught us that you can and should question everything. However, redesigning your company only makes sense if you can foresee what the future will bring or what your partners in the university network expect from you. We are therefore looking forward to the results of the study with great excitement.

The crisis as an opportunity?
When I personally look back at the year 2021, it feels to me like a slow farewell to the old Studierendenwerk. And, as is always the case in transitional phases, it feels a bit like being caught between two stools. The dashed hopes of a quick end to the pandemic also contributed to this feeling. Perhaps that's what was hardest in 2021: when we saw the silver lining disappear again and all the refectories and cafeterias had to remain closed until September of that year for economic reasons after all. So it was a year of cleaning and pausing, which we used as an opportunity to paint a positive and meaningful picture of our work tomorrow.

Is it possible to study without on-campus presence? And if so, what does that mean for the Studierendenwerk?
I remember that in the beginning there was a firm conviction among many that the study of the future would dissolve into digital learning worlds and some were already talking about digital distance learning forever. I could not believe that and still do not believe that. I - and also my team - firmly believe that a university degree without socialisation in one's own student life is only worth half as much. That's why the pandemic always seemed to me more like a catalyst - although a rather unwieldy one - for finally doing what we should have done a long time ago and what would have suited a modern country like Germany: making it possible to study with as much digital resources as possible. We almost have to be grateful to the pandemic for shaking us awake. However, high-speed internet will not replace the socialisation of students in their own lives, so we do not see any significant structural change in our offers. Student housing, the canteen and cafeteria, the day care centre and counselling will continue to be in high demand. Only the demographic figures - there are simply fewer and fewer citizens of studyable age - point to a decline in student numbers in the long term. The only way to counteract this is to increase the admission of international students if Germany wants to remain a strong centre of education. We must do more for foreign students and provide better services for this group of students. For example, through centralised "student services", which are often common practice abroad.

What really annoyed me was that in 2020 and 2021 the social imbalance in our society became abundantly clear. Those who held the system together and ensured that the "enterprise" Germany continued to run to some extent for the good of all of us during the pandemic are still not the ones who earn a good and fair salary. I am looking specifically at my employees in the day-care centre, who have always been at the starting line, past every lock-down and every regulation, so that fathers and mothers can go to work. Our society urgently needs to work on this in the long term. Applause alone will not help here, but only appreciation that is also shown on the pay slip, in fair working conditions and in good employment contracts. Otherwise we will lose these socially committed people in the long run.

Problem child skilled workers
I am also worried about the shortage of skilled workers. In my opinion, the situation will become extremely acute. For us, especially in the area of university catering, as well as in the area of IT and, of course, in the area of childcare workers, almost insurmountable staffing challenges have arisen that will not abate on their own in the future.
So, summing up what has been described, a year of patience, resilience and navel-gazing has come to an end. But the question remains - even if the hope for the end of the pandemic is becoming more and more concrete - whether the end of the pandemic will also be the end of our problems.
  • A wave of non-socialised students will come with all the problems that "freshmen" have.
  • The shortage of skilled workers in the catering industry will probably force us to reduce services on campus or close entire refectories.
  • Finding childcare workers is definitely getting harder and harder, and a reduction in services or temporary closures of our daycare centres are looming.
  • Even the return from short-time work is not always smooth. Especially when many colleagues have been on short-time work at home for 18-20 months in the last two years.
We can only hope that the state politicians will also see and address these problems and provide the Studierendenwerk with long-term support.

Empty batteries but great team
I keep noticing that everyone's batteries are pretty empty and that the desire for operational normality is becoming more and more overwhelming. We can only help ourselves out of the crisis together and must take the concerns and fears of the staff seriously. It will probably take a while before a sense of security and stability is restored in people's minds. I can say that the social situation has brought out good and bad sides in many things. However, I am happy to say that the good aspects in my team and in my company have clearly outweighed the bad. For this, I would like to thank everyone who held the company together in 2021 and also my Board of Directors, who always went along with me, even on difficult paths.

For 2022, I intend to continue cleaning up, to push ahead with our dormitory project for 199 dormitory places in Landau Annweiler Straße and to keep an eye on the modernisation of the Studierendenwerk. But one thing is very important: the back and forth during the pandemic must come to an end. In the long term, this cannot be achieved by any staff, no matter how willing they are to work. We ask for a clear and reliable political line and support for a good future for the Studierendenwerk.

For our werkbericht 2021 we have chosen a slightly different format, as 2021 was not a year comparable to anything else. In interviews, my major departments will report on how they experienced the financial year.
All that remains is for me to wish you an enjoyable read and to thank everyone who has helped build a stable, crisis-proof Studierendenwerk and will continue to do so.

Yours, Andreas Schülke
Managing Director