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Freeing Up Higher Education

18 February

Recommendations from the Donors’ Association for the Promotion of Sciences and the Humanities in Germany include scrapping capacity and work-load regulations and letting universities and colleges decide on salaries and student fees – The Universities of Göttingen and Heidelberg and the Technical Universities of Darmstadt, Dresden and Munich have been testing the scope afforded by greater autonomy

Together with the Heinz Nixdorf Foundation, the Donors’ Association for the Promotion of Sciences and the Humanities in Germany — an influential initiative in which leading German businesses club together to support research, (higher) education and culture — will be presenting its "Guidelines for the Deregulation of Higher Education" in Berlin today. One of the Association’s recommendations is that in future universities and colleges should be the employers and collective bargaining partners of their entire staff and be able to determine salary scales themselves. Another proposal is the scrapping of the capacity and work-load regulations rigidly imposing the number of teaching hours and the number of students to be admitted.

The Association also recommends allowing universities and colleges to decide on the tuition fees to be imposed on their students every term. Uniform fee scales valid throughout the country should be scrapped. At the same time, it is up to the politicians to ensure that no student be excluded from higher education for financial reasons.

Another proposal made by the Association is that universities and colleges should shoulder responsibility for student accommodation and the provision of meals for students and decide on the partners they intend to involve in the fulfilment of these tasks (e.g. student services facilities). Another important element in autonomy is making institutions of higher education the owners of the real estate at their disposal and leaving it up to them to manage these premises. Ministerial control over such matters should be replaced by target agreements concluded between the institutions and the state ministries of education.

Andreas Schlüter, general secretary of the Association, describes the advantages for state and society of freeing up higher education: "Deregulation of higher education is an idea linked to the ideals of autonomy, self-governance, responsibility and identification. These ideals can only be implemented if the state is willing to concede greater decision-making powers to the institutions of higher education. By granting such autonomy the state would indeed renounce much of its influence on the way universities and colleges go about fulfilling their functions. But at the same time the state governments can expect to gain partners that will use this new scope intelligently and flexibly and develop the highest possible degree of motivation and identification."

Schlüter also sees the guidelines on deregulation of higher education as a model for the "Academic Freedom Law" that the Federal Ministry of Education and Research is devising: "Much of the scope that universities and colleges are petitioning for or have already obtained can readily be granted to non-university research institutions as well."

Since 2005, the Association and the Heinz Nixdorf Foundation have invested 2.5 million euros in enabling five model universities — the Universities of Göttingen and Heidelberg and the Technical Universities of Darmstadt, Dresden and Munich — to test the additional scope afforded by greater autonomy. The experience they have gleaned in this process has been written into the new recommendations. A prominently manned advisory council supported the universities in their work.

The guidelines ("Leitlinien") can be found on the internet (in German only) at

For more information on the overall programme go to

Please address any inquiries to
Frank Stäudner
phone: 0201/8401158

Inquiries on the University of Heidelberg should be addressed to
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Public Information Officer
University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 542317

Irene Thewalt
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 542317
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