GERMANY: Rectors demand more funding

Margret Wintermantel, President of Germany's Rectors' Conference or HRK, has urged the new coalition to continue the previous administration's efforts to support higher education.

Pact I, covering the period from 2007 to 2010, provides EUR1.13 billion (US$1.7 billion) to fund 91,370 additional beginners as compared with 2005. Pact II, for 2011 to 2015, proposes that by 2015, there will be a doubling of first-year student numbers in 2005, amounting to 275,000 additional beginners.

In this second round, total funding per additional new student is to rise from EUR22,000 to EUR26,000, with the federal government contributing EUR13,000 and the states providing the balance. The increase is aimed at improving teaching but a caveat says the budget situation of the states, given the economic crisis, could lead to cuts in the programme.

The Center for Higher Education, a think-tank for the tertiary sector based in Gütersloh, states that growth in student numbers by 2008 was slightly in excess of the programme's estimate, while the creation of 275,000 additional places for first-year students lies well below its own estimated demand of 346,000.

The Teachers' and Scientists' Union has referred to Pact II as "underfunded". Andreas Keller of the GEW says the EUR26,000 per study place set by the Pact is too little, explaining that "students need around EUR35,500 to complete a bachelor's or masters course". And to achieve comparable international standards in terms of quantity, Keller notes, at least 370,000 additional study places would be required.

Wintermantel maintains the federal government has made a good start with the new programmes and stresses there is no alternative but to continue with them. However, she also calls for new initiatives. "The social situation of students continues to be insufficiently supported. This has a negative impact on the length of studying, dropout rates and the general popularity of studying."

Quite apart from the individual's right to education, she says, this is wrong from an economic angle. "Government support for students should at least be raised to a level that covers the cost of living and should ensure that all students requiring support really get it."