From 16 to 27 May 2024, you will have a new oppor­tu­ni­ty to elect stu­dent mem­bers in the university’s bodies as well as the stu­dent bodies. Here is what the polls are about and how it works.

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Many just don’t know it any other way: Due to the COVID-19 pan­de­mic, Martin Luther University swit­ched its cam­pus elec­tions to an online ser­vice and that is how it has been ever sin­ce. Most mem­bers of the stu­dent uni­on have no objec­tions. What they see abo­ve all are the bene­fits of bet­ter acces­si­bi­li­ty for the voters and less workload for the pol­ling clerks. The weak point of a digi­tal bal­lot, which can be eit­her secret or allow for the results to be veri­fied, has been of less impor­t­ance to most. So for the time being, the uni­ver­si­ty will run its cam­pus elec­tions online and will make the ser­vice avail­ab­le to the stu­dent uni­on, too.

The diagram shows which students are eligible to vote for which body.
At a glance: Who can vote for whom
Diagram: Konrad Dieterich

Once a Year …

… the stu­dent mem­bers of the Senat (sena­te), Fakultätsräte (facul­ty coun­cils), Studierendenrat (stu­dent coun­cil), and Fachschaftsräte (facul­ty-level stu­dent coun­cils) are elec­ted anew. Other mem­ber groups of the uni­ver­si­ty cast their votes less fre­quent­ly: every four years for pro­fes­sors and every two years for aca­de­mic and non-aca­de­mic staff.  These two groups of uni­ver­si­ty staff will also take part in the sena­te and facul­ty coun­cil elec­tions of 2024.

In German, “Gremium” is a term that can refer to any group of experts or elec­ted repre­sen­ta­ti­ves who deba­te on cer­tain mat­ters and end up making decisi­ons or recom­men­da­ti­ons. The uni­ver­si­ty bodies and stu­dent bodies fit this gene­ral defi­ni­ti­on. As far as the­se bodies are elec­ted, they are com­pa­ra­ble to par­lia­ments or coun­cils and deci­de on their mat­ters — wit­hin the scope gran­ted by the Higher Education Act of the State of Saxony-Anhalt. The power of each Gremium varies con­si­der­ab­ly, with the university’s sena­te having the grea­test room for manoeuvre.

The Senat as well as the nine Fakultätsräte are bodies of the uni­ver­si­ty whe­re all mem­ber groups are repre­sen­ted. In con­trast, stu­dent bodies — the Studierendenrat and Fachschaftsräte — are elec­ted and fil­led exclu­si­ve­ly by mem­bers of the stu­dent uni­on. This means that all enrol­led stu­dents are eli­gi­ble as long as they have paid their stu­dent uni­on fee of 12.35 euros, which is usual­ly inclu­ded in the semes­ter fee.

Within the bodies, some cam­pus groups repre­sent poli­ti­cal ori­en­ta­ti­ons. On the bal­lot slips the­se can be gene­ral­ly reco­gnis­ed by their names. However, not all nomi­na­ti­on lists can be attri­bu­t­ed to a par­ti­san poli­ti­cal ori­en­ta­ti­on and the­re is no need to be affi­lia­ted to any cam­pus group to run as a nominee.

Lost (& Found) in Translation 

Studierendenschaft (f.) is often trans­la­ted as “stu­dent body”, as it gene­ral­ly means the ent­i­re group of stu­dents wit­hin a par­ti­cu­lar uni­ver­si­ty, or even bey­ond. However, the trans­la­tor sett­led on “stu­dent uni­on” becau­se a Verfasste Studierendenschaft is a legal enti­ty atta­ched to its uni­ver­si­ty, as con­sti­tu­ted in the Higher Education Acts of most German sta­tes, and stu­dents are mem­bers of it. This choice of words should also help avoid the ambi­gui­ty of “body”, which can refer both to a lar­ge group of peop­le and a gover­ning orga­ni­sa­ti­on with dedi­ca­ted tasks.

Elected Uni Bodies

The Senat is the hig­hest decisi­on-making body of the uni­ver­si­ty. Its tasks inclu­de deci­ding on stu­dy and exami­na­ti­on regu­la­ti­ons, the draft bud­get, and coope­ra­ti­on agree­ments — it deter­mi­nes all fun­da­men­tal mat­ters of the uni­ver­si­ty. Plans on the future direc­tion of the uni­ver­si­ty, which come down to cut­ting cour­ses and chairs, have been adop­ted by the Senat in the past years, too. Every four years, the Senat elects the rec­tor of the uni­ver­si­ty; howe­ver that’s not hap­pe­ning again until 2026. For spe­ci­fic tasks, the Senat has estab­lis­hed several com­mis­si­ons. Meanwhile, many other orga­ni­sa­tio­nal issu­es are wit­hin the aut­ho­ri­ty of the rector’s office, which ser­ves as the exe­cu­ti­ve body of the university.

Tasks of a Fakultätsrat inclu­de for examp­le pro­po­sing new pro­fes­sors for vacant chairs as well as deci­ding on stu­dy and exami­na­ti­on regu­la­ti­ons wit­hin their respec­ti­ve area of disci­pli­nes. Numerous other mat­ters are wit­hin the scope of the deans’ offices, which are the exe­cu­ti­ve bodies of the faculties.

Both in the Senat and in the Fakultätsräte, seats are allo­ca­ted to the university’s mem­ber groups in a fixed ratio. This ensu­res a majo­ri­ty for pro­fes­sors, while stu­dents and aca­de­mic staff each recei­ve just short of a sixth of the seats, and non-aca­de­mic staff clo­se to a twelfth. An abso­lu­te majo­ri­ty of seats and votes for pro­fes­sors is sti­pu­la­ted in the Higher Education Act of Saxony-Anhalt and has been repeated­ly cri­ti­cis­ed by the other mem­ber groups as undemocratic.

Symbolische Darstellung der Stimmverhältnisse im Senat
In the sena­te of the uni­ver­si­ty, the rec­tor, 14 pro­fes­sors, 4 aca­de­mic staff mem­bers, 4 stu­dents, 2 non-aca­de­mic staff mem­bers, and the equi­ty offi­cer have seats with voting rights. Other per­sons who take part in the ses­si­ons without voting rights are not shown here.
Diagram: Konrad Dieterich 

Elected Student Bodies

The Studierendenrat (stu­dent coun­cil, often refer­red to as Stura), and the Fachschaftsräte (facul­ty-level stu­dent coun­cils) are bodies repre­sen­ting pure­ly stu­dent inte­rests. Fachschaften are orga­ni­sa­tio­nal sub­di­vi­si­ons of the Studierendenschaft (stu­dent uni­on) and rough­ly cor­re­spond to the facul­ties or elec­to­ral are­as of the uni­ver­si­ty, with some varia­ti­ons. As mem­bers of the stu­dent uni­on, stu­dents are mem­bers of a Fachschaft, too.

Within some of the­se stu­dent facul­ties, so-cal­led Institutsgruppen (depart­ment groups) have emer­ged to repre­sent the stu­dents of spe­ci­fic sub­jects; the­se are, howe­ver, no offi­cial bodies of the stu­dent uni­on and more akin to working groups sup­por­ted by their respec­ti­ve stu­dent facul­ty coun­cil. They will not be on the bal­lot during the cam­pus elections.

Beyond repre­sen­ting their mem­bers’ inte­rests in the field of hig­her edu­ca­ti­on poli­cy, the bodies of the stu­dent uni­on are sup­po­sed to address the cul­tu­ral, aca­de­mic, social, and finan­cial needs and issu­es of their mem­bers. In other words, they not only act as a stu­dent mouth­pie­ce to the uni­ver­si­ty, sta­te poli­ti­ci­ans, and the gene­ral public, but also assist with prac­ti­cal issu­es, such as legal advice and other forms of coun­sel­ling, a hardship fund, and a child­ca­re room. In addi­ti­on, they orga­ni­se events and acti­vi­ties and spon­sor pro­jects of stu­dents. Fachschaftsräte also pro­vi­de sup­port and inter­ven­ti­on in case of spe­ci­fic stu­dy-rela­ted problems.

Both the Studierendenrat and the Fachschaftsräte are ent­i­re­ly com­po­sed of stu­dents who are mem­bers of the stu­dent uni­on. Half of the repre­sen­ta­ti­ves in the Stura are elec­ted at-lar­ge, with nomi­nees from the stu­dent uni­on as a who­le, while the other half are deter­mi­ned through elec­to­ral con­sti­tu­en­ci­es con­sis­ting of one or more stu­dent facul­ties. For spe­ci­fic tasks, the Studierendenrat elects a num­ber of spo­kes­per­sons and can also appoint offi­cers and estab­lish working groups which are open to non-elec­ted students.

The Stura of the MLU, tog­e­ther with three more stu­dent coun­cils (of Burg Giebichenstein, Merseburg, and Anhalt), exerts some influ­ence on the Studentenwerk Halle. This public sec­tor orga­ni­sa­ti­on offers a ran­ge of stu­dent ser­vices in the regi­on, inclu­ding cafe­te­ri­as and dor­mi­to­ries. Each Stura gets to appoint one of the stu­dent mem­bers in the Studentenwerk’s board of administration.


The Landesstudienkolleg (pre­pa­ra­to­ry col­le­ge of Saxony-Anhalt) is an edu­ca­tio­nal insti­tu­ti­on pro­vi­ding inter­na­tio­nal stu­dents with addi­tio­nal know­ledge and skills pri­or to their regu­lar enrolm­ent. Collegians can­not par­ti­ci­pa­te in the university’s elec­tions for sena­te and the facul­ty coun­cils. They can, howe­ver, run for a seat in the Studierendenrat and the Fachschaftsrat of Neuphilologien/Studienkolleg, and cast their votes, too. By the time they come into office, the elec­ted nomi­nees will be no lon­ger in the Studienkolleg but can still repre­sent the inte­rests of the new Collegians. Therefore it makes most sen­se to run if they plan to enrol at MLU.

The diagram shows in a table-like manner how the faculties and their electoral areas differ from the electoral constituencies of the student council and the student faculties.
The Fachschaften (stu­dent facul­ties) and the elec­to­ral con­sti­tu­en­ci­es of the Stura (stu­dent coun­cil) do not necessa­ri­ly cor­re­spond to the facul­ties and their elec­to­ral are­as.
Diagram: Konrad Dieterich


Since 2022, the­re has been a repre­sen­ta­ti­ve group dedi­ca­ted to the inte­rests of PhD can­di­da­tes. As some of them count as stu­dents, others count as staff, and some “exter­nals” have no uni­ver­si­ty mem­ber sta­tus at all, their mat­ters are meant to be brought tog­e­ther in a sin­gle com­mit­tee. Two PhD can­di­da­tes per facul­ty are elec­ted as repre­sen­ta­ti­ve and depu­ty. At mee­tings, the com­mit­tee dis­cus­ses mat­ters and inte­rests of PhD stu­dents. Furthermore, one mem­ber each has the right to speak at mee­tings of the Senat and the Fakultätsräte. They can also pro­po­se moti­ons the­re, but do not have the right to vote.


Exclusively fema­le stu­dents and fema­le uni­ver­si­ty staff have the right to elect the Gleichstellungsbeauftragte (equi­ty offi­cers) of the uni­ver­si­ty at lar­ge as well as of each facul­ty and other are­as of MLU. Nevertheless, all mem­bers of the uni­ver­si­ty are allo­wed to run as nomi­nees. Equity offi­cers are not elec­ted direct­ly, but by way of so-cal­led Gleichstellungskollegien (equi­ty col­le­ges) with up to 12 mem­bers each, who then choo­se one per­son from their cir­cle as equi­ty offi­cer. In the Senat and each Fakultätsrat, equi­ty offi­cers have one seat with voting rights.

Vote on Student Transit Pass

The Stura aims to use the cam­pus elec­tion plat­form to let the voters deci­de on the future of the Semesterticket (stu­dent tran­sit pass). For the cur­rent sum­mer semes­ter, a tem­pora­ry switch to a dis­coun­ted Deutschlandticket has alrea­dy hap­pen­ed. Now they want to ask for the will of the stu­dents in a bal­lot vote.

If the majo­ri­ty deci­des against the new Deutschlandticket, the stu­dent pass of the regio­nal tran­sit asso­cia­ti­on MDV will be rein­sta­ted from the win­ter semes­ter. An exit from any kind of stu­dent pass would not be immedia­te­ly pos­si­ble as the five-year con­tract bet­ween the Studentenwerk Halle and the MDV does not expi­re until the end of the 2025 sum­mer semester.

What happens next

Notices of Election issued by the uni­ver­si­ty and the stu­dent uni­on give detail­ed infor­ma­ti­on on the pre­pa­ra­ti­on and fur­ther steps of the cam­pus elec­tions. These are the key points in brief:

Voters have been auto­ma­ti­cal­ly regis­tered. They can con­firm their eli­gi­bi­li­ty (Wahlberechtigung) through the self-ser­vice Löwenportal. This is par­ti­cu­lar­ly rele­vant if stu­dents are invol­ved with more than one facul­ty or elec­to­ral area based on their com­bi­na­ti­on of courses.

(Almost) too late to run. As the elec­tion date has been set around two weeks ear­lier than in 2023, the dead­lines for sub­mit­ting nomi­na­ti­on lists ended cor­re­spon­din­gly ear­lier, too. However, the­re is still a chan­ce to be elec­ted: If not enough can­di­da­tes have regis­tered for some of the uni­ver­si­ty bodies or stu­dent bodies, the­re will be blank fiel­ds on the voting slip whe­re you can wri­te in eli­gi­ble stu­dents. You can find out whe­re this is the case from 30 April. 

From 30 April, accep­ted nomi­na­ti­on lists for the various bodies are announ­ced. The lists will be pos­ted in several pla­ces at the uni­ver­si­ty as well as on the web­sites of the stu­dent union’s elec­tion com­mit­tee and the university’s elec­tion office.

Mahlowat”: In past years, the Stura has pre­pa­red an elec­tion com­pass to help voters find a cam­pus group that matches their inte­rests. It should be con­si­de­red that the pro­po­si­ti­ons can­not cover all topics and that the­re are can­di­da­tes on the bal­lot who do not belong to any of the fea­tured cam­pus groups. Therefore, it may be a good idea to take the results of the com­pass with a pinch of salt.

16 May, 6:30 pm, Audimax buil­ding: The “Löwenrunde”, a pre­sen­ta­ti­on by the stu­dent council’s elec­tion com­mit­tee, gives an over­view of the upco­m­ing cam­pus elec­tion. Furthermore, cam­pus groups pre­sent their topics in a panel dis­cus­sion which is open to con­tri­bu­ti­ons from the audi­ence. The event will be live-strea­med again, and sub­se­quent­ly be avail­ab­le as a recording.

16 May, 10:00 am to 27 May 2023, 3:00 pm: Elections. After log­ging into the Löwenportal, stu­dents can cast their votes online for both the university’s and the stu­dent union’s bodies. The bal­lots will indi­ca­te how many votes the eli­gi­ble voter can cast for the respec­ti­ve body. It is pos­si­ble to split the votes on more than one nomi­na­ti­on list and to cast up to two votes for one per­son. The bal­lot will be inva­lid if more than the admis­si­ble num­ber of votes are cast. Should the­re be not enough can­di­da­tes run­ning for a par­ti­cu­lar body to choo­se from, names of eli­gi­ble stu­dents may be writ­ten in the pro­vi­ded fields.

1 September 2024: The term for the elec­ted stu­dent mem­bers of the Senat (sena­te) and the Fakultätsräte (facul­ty coun­cils) begins. It is star­ting on 1 October for the Studierendenrat (stu­dent coun­cil), and on various days for the Fachschaftsräte (stu­dent-level facul­ty councils).

Text: Konrad Dieterich
Translation: Konrad Dieterich
Featured image: Marlene Nötzold

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