On 18 September 2023, Friedrich Faulhammer, Rector of the University for Continuing Education Krems, was awarded the Grand Gold Medal of Honor for Services to the Republic of Austria. The decoration, which is awarded by Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen, was presented by Federal Minister for Education, Science and Research Martin Polaschek, during a ceremony. With the award, the Republic of Austria honors Faulhammer's commitment to the further development of universities and his dedication to academic continuing education, first as a high-ranking official in the Ministry of Science and later as Rector of the University for Continuing Education Krems.
Over the past decades, Friedrich Faulhammer has been deeply involved in the further development of the Austrian higher education system and especially academic continuing education. From supervisor and later head of a department at the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research to rector of the University for Continuing Education Krems (Danube University Krems) since 2013, Faulhammer has had a major impact on Austria as a location for science and research.
Faulhammer's major contribution, in the context of the award, was the further development of the higher education system and academic continuing education in Austria: From the leading legislative design and implementation of the Universities Act of 2002, the responsibility for the expansion of universities of applied sciences since 2000, the design of the comprehensive quality assurance system for all universities, which led to the Federal Act on the External Quality Assurance in Higher Education and the establishment of AQ Austria in 2011, to the most recent involvement in the design of the Continuing Education Amendment to the Universities Act of 2002 in the year 2021, in which Faulhammer succeeded in legally anchoring continuing education as an independently regulated task area of the universities.
As Rector of the University for Continuing Education Krems since 2013, Faulhammer has focused on strengthening academic continuing education and lifelong learning at university level, working towards positioning the University for Continuing Education Krems as the leading public university for continuing education in Europe. The full inclusion of the University for Continuing Education Krems in the Universities Act 2002 and the increase in public funding, together with the resulting expansion of the university's role in the Austrian science system, were essential factors in this. The increased public awareness of academic continuing education is also reflected in the high number of professionally experienced adults studying at the University for Continuing Education Krems. Nearly one-third of all master's students in academic continuing education in Austria study at the University for Continuing Education Krems, according to an IHS study (2019). Rector Faulhammer has made a significant contribution to universities assuming societal responsibility for the topic of continuing education.
Achievements as Rector of the University for Continuing Education Krems
His achievements as Rector include, among others, the strategic positioning of the University for Continuing Education Krems as a leading university for continuing education in Europe, thematic leadership in the field of academic continuing education (participation in legislative amendments, establishment of an international think tank on the future of continuing education at universities), expansion of research and research-led teaching at the University for Continuing Education Krems (expansion of the research infrastructure at Campus Krems), leadership and further development in the field of transdisciplinarity (unique feature for the entire university, first global transdisciplinarity conference in Krems), international contributions in the field of strategic management of universities (e.g. on invitation of the European University Association EUA on strategic management and communication of universities and their change processes; University for Continuing Education Krems as a best-practice model). In addition, he is responsible for the two-time certification of the university's quality management system by the Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation Austria (AQ Austria), introduction and accreditation of PhD studies, habilitation rights, establishment of long-term research projects with high visibility (e.g. CD Labs, Horizon Europe, etc.), design and implementation of a key strategy for the digital transformation of the university, and, last but not least, several initiatives to make the importance of universities and research visible, as well as international awards in the field of university and science communication (Mercury Awards New York, Media Awards Cannes, etc.).
In addition to his activities as Rector of the University for Continuing Education Krems, Faulhammer is also strengthening the university's position in society on an international level by assuming several functions. Since January 2023, Friedrich Faulhammer has again been chairman of the Danube Rectors' Conference (DRC), which he positions as a strong partner in the implementation of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR) in order to strengthen the contributions of science and research to the positive development of the regions along the Danube. As Chairman of the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe (IDM), he is committed to deepening the cooperation between research and society, and at the same time to adopting and strengthening the transdisciplinary perspective that is the unique feature of the University for Continuing Education Krems.