Private set outshines state rivals

January 4, 2002

Germany's private higher education institutions are more successful than state universities and are a role model for reform, according to an evaluation by a high-ranking jury.

Sixteen of the best-known private international universities submitted themselves to evaluation by a jury of 12 academic and business experts at a symposium hosted by the Stifterverband, the industry association that sponsors higher education.

A preliminary assessment by jury leader Hans Weiler, professor emeritus of education and political science at Stanford University, concluded that the private universities enriched the country's education system and were worth the investment of up to €20,000 (£12,400) in fees a year.

Manfred Erhardt, Stifterverband general secretary, said the evaluation aimed to "fill the information gap" about the quality of private international institutions, which are not yet accredited by a German official body.

The full evaluation, which will be published next year, will provide a forum for private institutions to present themselves to an interested public, to industry representatives and to potential sponsors.

The aim is not to pit private against state universities, said Professor Erhardt. "It is not a criticism of state universities to say that private institutions are more flexible, market and customer-oriented, but (it is a criticism) of politicians who are loath to free them from state budget policy and public-sector pay and conditions."

He said the characteristics of the private institutions "read like a list of deficits in German state universities". They select their students, offer intensive supervision, have modular structures, offer multilingual degrees and have independent management.

Politicians must offer state universities the same conditions if they are to succeed on an international playing field, Professor Erhardt said.

About 25,000 students study at Germany's 45 private institutions. Most of the 16 evaluated were set up specifically to get round Germany's cumbersome state-controlled system. Many are not private institutions but were founded by state universities. The majority specialise in business education.

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