German government pledges to increase university spending

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Germany’s new government has pledged major increases in spending on universities and research, describing higher education as “the backbone of the German science landscape”.

The “traffic light” coalition of the “red” Social Democrats, the “yellow” Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Greens released a political platform that promised to increase university funding by 3% each year. 2022 to a “pact”, similar to a similar regulation for research and innovation.

The 177-page agreement also pledges to increase public spending on research and development to 3.5% of gross domestic product by 2025 and to create a “digital university” program covering education, qualifications. , infrastructure and cybersecurity.

The Excellence Strategy, a federal and state funding program, will grow with an emphasis on interdisciplinarity, while the German Research Foundation will see its program budget increase until 2030.

“The agreement has a lot of potential to advance the German science system, to advance German universities and Germany. There is a lot of appreciation for science in there; there are a lot of very interesting and very forward-looking measures, ”said Jan Wöpking, managing director of the German group of research universities U15.

“In general, it is very good news that the higher education system is mentioned so often and that it is the focus, and not the non-university sector, which has benefited massively in recent years”, said Peter-André Alt, president of the German Rectors’ Conference, who pointed out that the introduction of an annual increase in grants for higher education institutions gives them a privilege enjoyed by non-university research institutes since 2006 .

The political agreement, the result of more than a month of talks between the three parties, also promises reforms to the “capacity” law, which indeed prescribes student / staff ratios, as well as changes to ease student funding. . “If there were any reforms to come, the importance for higher education institutions cannot be overstated,” Wöpking said, referring to both areas.

Frank Ziegele, executive director of the Center for Higher Education, a German think tank, noted that the document’s sections on higher education and research were “very specific and detailed”, showing that the authors “know something about it. higher education, and they know where the pressing issues are.

However, while the chord names a lot, it is light on the numbers. Wöpking and Alt suggested that a new German agency for knowledge transfer and innovation would get 1 billion euros ($ 1.13 billion) per year from most existing sources, for example, but nothing is on paper.

“If you add up all of these promises, even in higher education and research, it doesn’t come cheap,” Ziegele said. “They could be funded, but it’s a matter of priorities. I have some hope that there is a priority, because in particular the Free Democratic Party and the Green Party have both been very, very strong supporters of many of these proposals. “

Bettina Stark-Watzinger, former director of a research institute at Goethe University in Frankfurt and member of the FDP, has been appointed Minister of Education. “She knows the universities; she knows about non-university research. She is not new to the system, ”Wöpking said, adding that it was a good sign that FDP chief Christian Lindner will head the finance ministry. “It might help if she’s from the same party.”

Ziegele added: “If they do everything they promise, I think four years from now we will have taken a lot of steps in the right direction. “


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