Bavaria blocks eternal student

July 17, 1998

BAVARIA has passed a sweeping reform of higher education to make universities more competitive and put a stronger emphasis on quality and achievement.

The German state's reform, which will come into effect next month, is more far-reaching than the country's higher education framework law passed by the federal parliament last month. It is likely to put pressure on other states to make changes.

"We are making the running in Germany with this law," said education minister Hans Zehetmair, of Bavaria's ruling Christian Social Union (CSU). Universities were no longer "islands of the blessed", but must face up to the challenges of international competition, he said.

A plan for university councils to bring outside expertise into universities and strengthen their profile is particularly controversial. Each university will have a six-member council made up of three people from industry, two independent academics and the rector.

Another major change is the plan to tie state funding to performance. Institutions will be funded according to the number of graduates they turn out. Performance-related pay for academics is also to be introduced in 1999.

If student demand is high, professors will be obliged to provide more than their contractual minimum of usually eight hours a week teaching. Students will evaluate the quality of their professors' teaching and the results will be published within their faculties.

The new law aims to speed students' passage through higher education by introducing compulsory intermediary exams after the fourth semester and by introducing Anglo-Saxon style BA and MA degrees alongside traditional German qualifications.

There will be new regulations to promote teaching. The university leadership will have to ensure sufficient teaching is offered and deans will be appointed to control teaching quality.

Universities will get more autonomy. They will appoint nearly all employees themselves, have limited powers to select students, and enjoy more freedom to administer their own budgets.

The reform also aims to foster the careers of young academics. High-flyers will be able to be appointed professor without the usual qualifications. Assistants will be able to take on research and teaching tasks independently.

The law will also attempt to rectify the imbalance between male and female teaching posts. University officials responsible for women's affairs, who until now had only an advisory role, will have a say in all university appointments. Universities will be obliged to ensure equality of opportunity between men and women.

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