The Senate adopted the University’s Budget for 2022 and defined its responsibilities for next year concerning a number of important issues.
Before agenda items were discussed, Rector Előd Takáts had thanked Marica Sárközi-Kerezsi for her two decades of work as Head of Administrative Affairs, as this was the last Senate meeting she participated in because she was to continue her career somewhere else in future. The Rector announced that no agreement had been reached between Petra Aczél and the University regarding the terms of her employment contract, so she had not started her work as Vice-Rector. Instead of her, the Rector appointed Ágnes Zsóka to the position of Deputy Rector for Academic Developments.
Budget for 2022 was adopted
As the first item on the agenda, the Senate discussed the University’s Budget for 2022, which was presented by Ákos Domahidi. The Chancellor thanked the proposals made at the previous meeting, saying that, in his view, the Senate wanted a conservative budget that included only low-risk revenues. On the revenue side, Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) grants had been taken out of the budget; revenues generated by Corporate and Institutional Relations had been adjusted downwards; and only very secure revenues had been included in the budget. The amount of planned revenues thus had decreased from HUF 14.66 billion to HUF 13.8 billion.
Personnel expenditures had not been altered, but, on request made at the previous Senate meeting, the Budget for 2022 includes that the rate of salary increase must not be less than it was in 2021. This rate was 8 percent in the service area and 12 percent in the academic area. In terms of non-personnel expenses, HUF 430 million had been placed in the category of contingent items, and expenses of Corporate and Institutional Relations had been adjusted to their revenues. Costs of investments had been significantly reduced, with HUF 800 million having been included in the core budget, which item mainly concerns the renovation of the Salt House building and related educational developments.
Ákos Domahidi said that some of the planned capital investments had been classified into the contingent category, thus, they will be realised if the University can obtain additional funds. Planned expenses had fallen to HUF 24.81 billion, but the 2022 Budget will still be HUF 2 billion higher than the expected fact figure for 2021. The Chancellor also emphasized that the amount of financial support requested from the maintaining foundation had been reduced to HUF 11.33 billion, which equals their expected dividend income.
In their comments, Balázs Felsmann and Mária Dunavölgyi thanked for receiving a Budget including much more details than the previous one. However, Mária Dunavölgyi highlighted that more and more model-changing universities need colleagues who can teach in English, and discussions had begun about how they could lure faculty away from Corvinus, a fact to be taken into account for ensuing salary increases.
According to Gábor Toronyai, the Budget saves money for the Foundation, because, as it stands today, the University requests HUF 1.7 billion less funds, while spending only 3 percent more funds on salaries than last year. Having said that, he added, he was ready to accept the budget, but this pressure was rather painful for him. He concluded by requesting that, when adequate funds are received under grant programmes, money coming from the category of contingencies should be used not only for capital investments but also for salaries. In his reply, Ákos Domahidi said that he could not promise this, because not all grant funds can be spent on salaries, for example, no funds from the HUF 5 billion amount of RRF could be accounted for as salaries.
Erzsébet Kovács raised the question whether there would be funds for payments such as rewards or Teaching Excellence, which is to be introduced next year. In her response, Zsuzsa Csenterics, Head of Strategic HR Processes, stated that funds would be available for those items and they had made plans for payments thereof.
Miklós Rosta still did not support the Budget, as the amount spent on human capital had not been changed. He had identified major uncertainties in the Budget and was concerned about the low powers of the Senate; therefore, he requested that the Senate should receive quarterly reports from the Chancellery on the implementation of the budget.
Responding to the suggestion, Ákos Domahidi stated that, with trends being observed, personnel expenditures have been constantly in the focus, as the amount of such expenditures has increased by nearly 10 percentage points in the past 4-5 years, while material-type and capital investment expenditures have been decreasing year after year. He added that there were no obstacles to providing quarterly reports, and Előd Takáts also agreed that it was needed.
In her contribution, Tünde Tátrai asked about plans for the Székesfehérvár Campus, and President Anthony Radev replied by saying that negotiations were underway on the future of the Campus.
Voting on the agenda item, the Senate supported the adoption of the budget with 20 votes for it and 5 abstentions.
Employment Requirements, Teaching Excellence, Awards
As a second item on the agenda, the Senate discussed the transformation of the University’s Employment Requirements. The proposal discussed consisted of three different parts: Employment Requirements, awards, and Teaching Excellence. Senators welcomed the fact that these regulations had been presented to the Senate as early as in the form of a basic concept, considering the direction followed in the transformation of the system for awards to be especially welcomed.
The gist of Employment Requirements was summarized by Zsuzsa Csenterics, Head of Strategic HR Processes, about which several members of the Senate expressed concern. In the opinion of Gábor Toronyai, with Employment Regulations transformed into framework regulations, competencies for detailed rules and decision-making will be transferred to the leaders of the Presidential Committee, thus the powers of the Senate will be reduced. In their comments, Gergő Kováts and Miklós Rosta also agreed with these concerns.
In her reply, Zsuzsa Csenterics said that she considered it a huge achievement that the Collective Agreement was concluded after the transformation of the University. Just as special issues – such as academic careers, performance development and remuneration – have always been brought before the Senate, so will her do in the future. She asked what other matters the Senate would like to form their opinions on before decisions are made by the Presidential Committee; Miklós Rosta replied by listing the following issues: recruitment, calls for applications, disciplinary proceedings, and conflicts of interest cases. In her response, Zsuzsa Csenterics said that she would be happy to submit the three relevant document to the Senate for their opinion, before presenting them to the Presidential Committee.
Gábor Toronyai said that he argued for the preservation of autonomy at the University and expected units of the University to be able to operate under a “local government system” from scientific and educational points of view. In his response, Rector Előd Takáts said that he agreed with the principle of a bottom-up approach at University, where institutes may themselves decide on the recruitment of colleagues, and the University is moving in this direction in the long run, but has not yet reached this point.
Mária Dunavölgyi made a proposal for introducing the evaluation of leaders next year; in her response, Zsuzsa Csenterics said that a 360-degree evaluation is planned, as part of which opinions about leaders’ work will also be formed.
The draft proposal on awards to be presented to the Senate comes from the idea that the current system tends to reward individual performance, and there should be some awards to encourage colleagues to work together. If this is supported by the Senate, further detailed rules will be worked out in this regard – Zsuzsa Csenterics briefly summed up. In addition, the proposal includes the idea of making decisions on the Employee of the Year award through a bottom-up community initiative; and the idea of an award recognising efforts made for the next generation, to be launched by a Board of Trustees.
According to Balázs Felsmann, the proposal is not yet clear about who could qualify as a workshop, thus that concept should be clarified. In response, Előd Takáts confirmed that they only have ideas for the time being, and they have yet to coordinate with others on these issues. He mentioned two important principles: the University should not only award individuals, but also teams; and staff members should be given the opportunity to award each other.
In her contribution, Zsuzsa Nagy stated, in connection with awarding the Employee of the Year, that it would be unfortunate if larger organizational units decided the outcome of voting through the simple fact that they have a higher headcount; Zsuzsa Csenterics stated that there are methodological possibilities for compiling a reasonable voting system to prevent that larger organizational units enjoy any advantage.
Éva Bodnár spoke to the Senate about teaching excellence and Corvinus University’s values concerning support and development. The University aims to identify lecturers of excellence and provide professional recognition to them; to identify good practices considered worthy of support; to help lecturers develop; and to provide them with professional evaluation and feedback. They had held more than 20 workshops, visiting every institute to present this concept, which resulted in a lot of discussion. Experiences showed that colleagues were delighted that, in addition to research, the University recognises teaching excellence, but there was a strong fear that the evaluation system would become a controlling tool in the hands of University leaders. The model will be implemented in two stages, so year 2022 will be about getting to know the system.
In their contributions, Miklós Rosta and Gergő Kováts praised the system, the latter making a suggestion for addressing fears, namely, that leaders should constantly resist any process towards allowing this reward to become a tool suitable for control.
On behalf of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, Erzsébet Kovács said that the new system was not a success for them. She feared that lecturers would not understand it and consider it an unnecessary extra burden and a form of control.
Gábor Toronyai stated that a change in culture is necessary indeed and that he supported the concept, mainly because, contrary to the current simplistic procedure of student opinions, this system supports development, which is a positive aspect.
Voting on the agenda item, the Senate supported the transformation of the University’s Employment Requirements with 19 votes for it and 7 abstentions.
Compensation for extraordinary lesson load
The third item on the agenda was Miklós Rosta’s proposal on compensation for extraordinary lesson load. He complained that, despite a promise made earlier in the Senate, none of the lecturers received any compensation for having delivered over 10 percent more lessons than required.
In her reply, Zsuzsa Csenterics said that no change had been made to remunerations, one year’s compensation amounts would be paid, and simply their disbursement had not been made yet.
Regarding the topic, Lajos Szabó, Vice-Rector for Education, noted that, even though launching an optional subject had originally required permission by the dean, yet, the number of such subjects have recently increased, so he did not feel it justified to allow lecturers to receive extra pay for subjects launched without such permission. In his reply, the Rector asked the newly appointed Vice-Rector for Education to look into optional subjects launched without permission.
The Rector decided not to order a voting on this matter, because everyone remembered it, as Miklós Rosta explained, that the University would make payment of compensation for extraordinary lessons.
Thesis reviews, thesis seminars
As a fourth item on the agenda, the Senate discussed a proposal compiled by Mária Dunavölgyi and the Corvinus Staff Council to examine incomes, macroeconomic processes and workload of lecturers at the University.
With regard to the proposal compiled by Mária Dunavölgyi, the Senate concluded that they agreed with the main goals, but the proposal lacked specifics that the Senate could substantively deal with. Therefore, Rector Előd Takáts recommended to discuss these issues first with the Committee of Heads of Institutions, then the Education Committee, and then the HR Committee, with the participation of Mária, and, thereafter, to analyse the necessary data and to prepare a specific, quantified proposal that the Senate can substantively discuss.
The Rector’s proposal was approved by the Senate with 19 votes for it and 3 abstentions.
The role of the Senate
As the fifth item on the agenda, Gábor Toronyai proposed to establish an ad hoc committee to review the responsibilities of the Senate and the Rules of Organization and Operation. In their contributions, several members agreed that it would be worthwhile to talk about recent changes, but several of them disagreed with the idea of an ad hoc committee. The Rector supported that it was worthwhile for the Senate to reflect on its own role in the life of the University, but he would entrust the new Vice-Rector for Academic Development to take the lead in this process and to hold the necessary discussions. Előd Takáts recommended to set the February meeting as a deadline, by which time Vice-Rector Ágnes Zsóka would come up with a specific proposal.
The Senate approved the Rector’s proposal with 23 votes for it, no abstentions, and no votes against it.
As an item after the agenda, Erzsébet Kovács reported that in September 2021 a body of professors was established at Corvinus University to address issues of research funding and academic advancement and to help associate professors habilitate. Members on the body would hold a live meeting in spring, where their main topic will be the process of obtaining a title as Doctor of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
In his closing remarks, Előd Takáts wished all members of the Senate a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year; and the next meeting is scheduled for January.