EDUCATION: COLLEGE : COUNTRIES: GERMANY: Germany's Mediocre Universities: On Shaky Foundations

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EDUCATION: COLLEGE : COUNTRIES: GERMANY: Germany's Mediocre Universities: On Shaky Foundations

David P. Dillard


Germany's Mediocre Universities: On Shaky Foundations

Germany's Mediocre Universities: On Shaky Foundations
Jun 25th 2009 | FRANKFURT
From The Economist print edition

A shorter URL for the above link:


The effort to improve German universities still has a long way to go


Thousands of less coddled students recently staged protests across Germany
against their conditions. "Back education, not banks", demanded protesters
fed up with overcrowded lecture halls, crumbling campuses, tuition fees
and a chaotic conversion from the traditional diploma to a European
two-tier degree system.

German universities are underfunded by international standards (see
chart). Professors juggle scores of students; at top American universities
they nurture a handful. In switching to the bachelors-masters degrees
prescribed by Europe's standardising "Bologna process", many universities
tried to cram bachelors degrees into just six terms. Only six German
universities are among the top 100 in the Shanghai rankings (Munich is
highest, at 55th). Just 21% of each age cohort gets a degree; the OECD
average is 37%.

A high-wage country with few natural resources cannot afford sub-par
universities, as Chancellor Angela Merkel often says. On June 4th the
federal and state governments approved an 18 billion plan to create more
university places, boost funding for research and cultivate a small group
of elite institutions. It is "a signal that research and education are
being taken seriously," says Margret Wintermantel, head of the German
Rectors' Conference.

In the past, universities were interchangeable, and most students chose
one close to home. But since the early 1990s budget cuts have encouraged
them to compete and specialise. Their state paymasters began to link cash
to professors' publications and their ability to attract outside money.
The government's new "excellence initiative" goads them to differentiate
still more, showering 1.9 billion on research programmes and nine "top
universities" with promising "future concepts".


The complete article may be read at the URL above.

David Dillard
Temple University
(215) 204 - 4584
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