Federal and state governments in Germany have agreed on an additional funding package for higher education. There will also be more money for teacher training.
In late April the Joint Higher Education Conference – Gemeinsame Wissenschaftskonferenz, or GWK – comprising representatives of the federal and state governments, pledged to provide an additional €2.2 billion (US$2.9 billion) a year up to 2015 for more study places.
Education Minister Johanna Wanka insisted that the state governments contribute half of the money. The scheme is to receive approval by Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and the state chief ministers in June.
The new cash boost is part of the Higher Education Pact, an initiative launched in 2007, when student numbers were predicted to rise by 90,000 during the first three years of the measure.
However, there were twice as many new enrolments in this period. And forecasts for the pact’s second stage, from 2011-15, suggest there will be an additional 630,000 first-year students in all, compared to 270,000 predicted in 2007.
The overall number of students in Germany has just reached the 2.5 million mark.
A further new measure focuses on teacher training, which is to be improved and must gain more practical relevance.
One of the aspects addressed is that teachers become better prepared to address the needs of disabled pupils, in an effort to include these pupils in common classes for all. Further measures include making maths lessons more comprehensible.
The “Quality Initiative for Teacher Training” is to be funded with an additional €50 million a year up to 2023.
The measure has been made conditional on state governments ensuring that teaching degrees awarded by state institutions be mutually recognised. Moving from one state to another can be difficult for newly recruited teachers under existing regulations.
According to GWK chair Doris Ahnen of the Social Democrats, who is also the education minister of Rhineland Palatinate: “Higher education institutions now have planning security.”
Ahnen agrees with Christian Democrat Wanka that the current large numbers of students can contribute to German industry’s being able to recruit sufficient numbers of engineers, jurists and the other qualified graduates it will need by 2020 to make up for demographic trends.
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