Denmark's research minister Jan Trojborg is planning to give greater managerial powers to university rectors under a reform launched in the next few weeks.
Mr Trojborg, who was given university management in a shake-up of the responsibilities of the ministries of education and research following the general election in March, wants rectors to have a clearer role and greater powers, particularly over recruitment.
A consultation paper will be issued before the summer vacation. The changes aim to improve the quality of research, equal opportunities, and provide more attractive jobs for young researchers.
At present only half of the advertised research posts attract more than one applicant.
"It should be possible for a university management to make priorities, for example more women at a certain institution or applicants who fit into a cultural situation," said Mr Trojborg. "A university's management should function like the management in every other business."
The country's 12 rectors should be able to choose between a number of qualified applicants for vacant positions, he said.
This would replace the system established following the 1968 student revolts whereby rectors followed the recommendations of various appointment committees.
Mr Trojborg aims to expand the number of university staff employed on fixed-term contracts in talks with the ministry of finance (the public sector employer) about new and more university positions and professorships.
Under the reforms, there would be contracts that relate research objectives to funding, and universities will be assessed nationally and internationally to gauge their production of new graduates and the quality of scientific publication.
Henrik Tvarno, rector of Odense University, welcomed "this present". But Mads Engholm, education policy secretary of a national student association, called the proposals "democratically unacceptable and professionally hopeless".
He said: "Strengthening the university management will not produce more qualified applicants. The universities are not private businesses. We don't produce goods by the metre. There must be time and resources for in-depth study and work."
He was surprised that the minister did not wait until the results of ministerial visits to the universities had been published.
Mr Trojborg said that free funding for basic research would continue at a high level. "But this requires priorities, management and orientation towards results."