The issue of teaching excellence has become an important topic for higher education policies around the world. Due to massification and the importance of education for national competitiveness in the knowledge society, excellence has become the subject of the political debate. Nowadays, teaching excellence initiatives promoting teaching excellence can be found at various levels in higher education. They concern individuals, departments and whole institutions. As diverse as the initiatives are, as diverse are the possible strategies for universities to increase teaching quality. However, teaching excellence lacks a clear definition and understandings of excellence in teaching are diverse. Furthermore, in the academic literature it is criticized that a critical approach is lacking in the debate about teaching excellence and that in the discussion about teaching excellence possible implications are mostly ignored. In this study the perception of teaching excellence in the ‘Competition for Teaching Excellence’ in Germany was examined. The study was constructed as a qualitative case study. To answer the research question, documents related to the competition was examined. The focus was set on the strategies that were recommended and proposed in the competition to increase the quality of teaching. In the analytical framework the strategies were divided into two groups; first, strategies which concern structural change and second those concern a cultural change.
The results of the study indicated that the perception of teaching excellence in the competition was expressed through an organizational approach in which the responsibility of the institution was seen as important and where cultural and structural change went hand in hand. In this perception teaching excellence was not only in responsibility of an individual teacher, rather the organization and the central leadership was in focus. Whereas the combination of structural and cultural approach was seen as mandatory; besides convergence in the overall perception of teaching excellence in the competition, a wide range of path in this joint approach is manifested, which allows institutional differentiation.