German education minister Edelgard Bulmahn has promised to "debureaucratise" German higher education.
Speaking at Berlin's Humboldt University, Ms Bulmahn said: "We in Germany want to become faster, better and more able to innovate but, above all, we want to become more international."
When asked by The THES how she planned to improve the quality of research when the private sector was in recession and federal and state governments said they had "empty tills", Ms Bulmahn said: "The till is not empty. We spend more on tertiary education (42 per cent) than Britain (39 per cent) or France (33 per cent) - there is enough money.
"It is about how we are spending that money."
Ms Bulmahn conceded that access to higher education depended on family background. She said the government accepted the need to make university more accessible to children from low-income families and to migrants.
"I come from a working-class family. I know how hard it is," she told about 50 students, who were protesting at the back of the hall.
Ms Bulmahn played down suggestions that chancellor Gerhard Schroder was planning the equivalent of an American Ivy League university in Berlin.
"The idea that the federal government can acquire a university and then declare it to be an 'elite' institution is absurd," she said.