18 October 2017 Register to receive our free newsletter by email each week
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Higher education heads criticise Bologna impact

Heads of Germany’s higher education institutions say they see severe shortcomings in the new bachelor degrees introduced as part of Bologna reforms and warn that they are failing to supply the graduates the country needs.

Horst Hippler, president of the Hochschulrektorenkonferenz (HRK), which represents the heads of higher education institutions, said the reforms had “failed to achieve the key goals”.

The criticism comes just a week after Federal Education Minister Annette Schavan hailed Bologna as “a European success story”.

Hippler said one key promise that has not been kept is greater student mobility. He maintained that the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) merely measured time studied in certain areas, not actual achievements, and he claimed that in reality students still have difficulty getting performance recognised in other countries.

Also, the fact that only 20% of bachelor students spend a semester abroad falls short of what Bologna originally anticipated.

At traditional universities, Hippler said, bachelor degrees may provide a vocational qualification, but it is simply not sufficient for an academic career.

“A bachelor in physics will never be a physicist,” he maintained.

Hippler conceded, however, that the new system is working better at fachhochschulen, or universities of applied science.

Hippler’s third major point of criticism is that the accelerated and tightly organised system of teaching in the new degree courses is not turning out the graduates that industry really needs.

“Companies want personalities, not mere graduates,” he said. “We are all working longer and longer, so it makes sense to invest more time in the early stages of a career to develop a personality. People have to be able to see beyond the end of their nose.”

Above all, Hippler maintained that students have to be able to take different lengths of time to study.

There have been complaints from industry that graduates with the new degree frequently lack personal and subject skils.

Erik Marquardt, a member of the board of the student union Freier zusammenschluss der StudentInnenschaften, is highly critical of Schavan’s praise for the reforms, and maintained that calling them successful smacks of “hallucination”.

Student union representatives in Bonn and Cologne said that bachelor students frequently complained of having no time to spend at a university abroad and too little time to earn enough money to support their studies.

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