Reform is scuppered at 'campus curiosus'

August 22, 1997

Politics professor Fritz Kratochwil's plan for a school of public and international affairs at Munich University appeared to have all the elements the German higher education reform bill is calling for: it would offer career-oriented, bilingual and interdisciplinary degrees to the best students.

Yet, after two years of lobbying, and positive responses from industry, the project has come up against a brick wall of inflexibility within his university. Professor Kratochwil now claims the resistance he has found is representative of the hostility to change in German universities.

"A few people want reform but most are digging in their heels and resisting it. We are at the point in Germany where no one wants to bite the bullet and face up to the problems," he said.

Professor Kratochwil, who previously taught at the United States universities of Princeton, Columbia and Pennsylvania, aimed to set up a school of public and international affairs along the lines of those at Princeton or Harvard. It would be targeted at students wanting jobs in international organisations, politics or banking.

He wanted it to be interdisciplinary, taking in economics, law, political science, methodology and project planning, and run on a credit points system. Teaching would be in English and German and students would take intensive language courses - the aim would be to reach a high enough level to be able to work in different languages.

It would even get round Germany's central admission procedure, which does not allow universities to select students, by taking students from other university courses after they had passed their intermediary exams - sat after their first two university years.

Professor Kratochwil won positive responses for his plan from the Bavarian education ministry, the state chancellery, the employers' organisation, and the rector of Munich University.

His problems started inside the university when he took it to the pro rector in charge of curricula. He was told its credit points system did not fit in with the Magister study regulations and that it could not offer Magister-level degrees if it did not have an intermediary exam.

The resistance he came up against in the Geschwister Scholl Institute, the part of Munich University in which he is based, has reached feuding proportions between academic staff. One newspaper report has called the institute "campus curiosus".

Professor Kratochwil said: "I want reform but it seems that reform has to correspond exactly with the very existing guidelines which are preventing reform.

"Unless the ministry, the university and industry pull together then it is quite clear nothing will change. The German system is completely inflexible. No one will stick their neck out for reform," he said.

But Professor Kratochwil has not given up. He hopes the new higher education bill, due to be unveiled in the autumn, will allow more room for experiments such as his.

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