Abandoned students fork out for hired help

June 2, 2006

Students at a German university are tackling understaffing by paying for a lecturer themselves.

With just five professors for 3,000 students in the language and literature department, a group of undergraduates at the University of Paderborn have scraped together enough money to employ linguistics lecturer Rebekka Schuermann for the current semester.

Student Thomas Lange said: "One professor has been ill for a long time, a second has been exempted from teaching in order to carry out research work, and another did not have his contract extended. This doesn't leave many professors, so we decided it was time to protest.

"Demonstrations and handing out leaflets have had little effect in the past, so we decided to use different means to grab attention."

But Mr Lange said it was only a short-term solution. "Obviously this cannot continue long-term and it isn't meant to. It is more of a symbolic act," he said.

Ms Schuermann, a member of staff at the nearby University of Bielefeld, travels to Paderborn once a week and is paid E645 (£440) plus expenses. The money was raised from the student representatives' council and profits from sales of student calendars.

But Ms Schuermann said that, even with her help, there were still too many students. "I can only do this because it is short term and luckily my position at Bielefeld is very flexible," she said.

Thomas Reuter, administration manager of the cultural sciences faculty, admitted it was overburdened. "We want to relieve the situation," he said, adding that the introduction of student fees and limiting student intake should ease the situation from next year.

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