Harald Kainz: 12 Years at the Head of TU Graz

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Harald Kainz: 12 Years at the Head of TU Graz
By Ines Hopfer-Pfister

Twelve years, three terms of office - no one before Harald Kainz can look back on such a long period of activity as Rector at TU Graz. He sums up his time in an interview with TU Graz people.

TU Graz people: Rector Kainz, why have you decided not to stand for another term as Rector?

Rector Kainz: For me, it was clear from the beginning that I would only hold the position of Rector for a certain period of time. For a university it is very important that after twelve years a new impetus with fresh ideas comes in. Moreover, it is also a demanding job and I will soon be 65 years old.

TU Graz people: When you look back over the past years -what is your best memory?

Rector Kainz: There are many highlights that I remember with pleasure. The best thing is when a project is successfully completed after long and intensive preparation. So I was extremely pleased that the Senate, after much discussion, broadly supported the issue of internationalisation. One topic that is currently in preparation and which I have also put a lot of time and energy into is our master plan for the development of Campus Inffeldgasse. With the decision of the zoning plan in the Graz City Council - we are now in the home stretch.

TU Graz people: You just mentioned that the main theme of your term in office is internationalisation. Since 2022, TU Graz has been a member of Unite! How do you see the role of TU Graz in this partnership?

Rector Kainz : We have prepared a lot of things at TU Graz over the last ten years and would now like to bring them to this partnership and present them. Unite! focuses primarily on teaching; we have also seen internationalisation at TU Graz strongly represented in the area of research. I think this approach is missing not only in Unite! but also at a higher, European level. We need to focus more on research - international research projects motivate people to participate. I am optimistic that cooperation will move in this direction.

TU Graz people: You are known as an active "builder". Why is campus development, especially sustainable development, so important to you?

Rector Kainz: Infrastructure makes the difference between an excellent and an average university. If Graz University of Technology can make suitable offers to professors and scientists in the area of infrastructure, then we will also get the best. This is an important step in retaining and attracting good people in the long term. We have a lot of buildings with very, very high sums in the pipeline right now. These include the Graz Center of Physics, the Graz Geocenter, the Cyber Security Center Graz, a new lecture hall wing and a new Production Technology Center, all of which will be completed in the next eight to ten years. Preparations for this have been underway for over ten years.

TU Graz people: And what about the topic of sustainability?

Rector Kainz: I come from urban water management and in water management you have to think in decades. That fits in well with sustainability. There are many colleagues at TU Graz who are very enthusiastic about the Climate Neutral TU Graz project. Thanks to them, we were able to create a great master plan, a roadmap, with numerous measures. TU Graz was a pioneer in this field in Austria, and our know-how is also in demand internationally. TU Graz staff members present our projects at ETH Zurich or in Munich. This is a sign that we are on a very good path with this.

TU Graz people: Which projects during your term of office are you still particularly proud of?

Rector Kainz: The many successes of our employees. I am also proud that our student teams come home with world championship titles practically every year. This is a clear signal that the training we provide is very good. Furthermore, in 2021 we received the Prize for the most entrepreneurial university in Austria. TU Graz ranks first in Austria in the area of university start-ups. And I am proud that CAMPUSonline has become the leading campus management system in the German-speaking world in recent years. Another point that works excellently at TU Graz is cooperation with the other universities and higher education institutions, as well as with business and politics in Styria. That is certainly part of our success.

TU Graz people: What did you find challenging?

Rector Kain z: A lot, but that’s what makes it so exciting. I am one of those people who love challenges. In many cases you can make a contribution, but in part you also have to take things as they come. Ultimately, I enjoy challenges - what can you take forward today, how can you best support someone.

TU Graz people: In November last year, you took to the streets together with students and staff to draw attention to the serious budget situation of the universities. In your opinion, what will the financial situation of TU Graz be like in the future?

Rector Kainz : In the meantime a consensus has come about between the Ministry of Science and Universities Austria on the financial requirements for the period 2022-2024. The finance minister is still missing in this arrangement, but I am optimistic. For the year 2023 we were given a cost-of-living allowance, the question is how much we will get for the year 2024. Here we hope for a commitment from the Ministry of Finance in the next few weeks.

TU Graz people: Your time as Rector of TU Graz ends in September. What are you going to do from 1 October 2023?

Rector Kainz: I have been on leave from the Institute of Urban Water Management and Landscape Water Engineering and will return there. I plan to reduce my workload a bit to have more time for my family, my five grandchildren and for sports. At the same time, there are already many enquiries. For example, I was appointed by the Bavarian State Minister for Science and Art to the founding commission of TU Nuremberg, which is comparable to the University Council. I was recently elected Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Austrian Research Society and beyond that I will be organising - in the framework of TU Austria - the Conference of Rectors and Presidents of European Universities of Technology for the next few years.

TU Graz people: What will you miss most of all?

Rector Kainz: I spend a large part of my life at and with TU Graz, I am actually at home here. I will miss the whole environment, my colleagues, very much. Over the past twelve years, intensive and good relationships with many people, also on a personal level, have been built.

TU Graz people: And what are you looking forward to the most?

Rector Kainz: I am someone who always looks forward and I will look for new challenges, that’s what I need. A day without a challenge is not a good day. In everything I do, I will try to represent TU Graz in the best possible way.

The era of Rector Kainz in pictures: Click here for the photo gallery

You can find this and other articles to browse through in TU Graz people #85 , the magazine for TU Graz employees and interested parties.