Lower Saxony could kill one of the sacred cows of German higher education: civil service status for professors.
The Lander's government has been urged to allow three of its higher education institutions to employ their entire staff on salary-basis only contracts in the future.
The proposal has been made by an advisory council accompanying a pilot project that is headed by the Gutersloh-based Centre for Higher Education Development (CHE), in collaboration with Clausthal Technical University, the University of Oldenburg and Osnabruck Fachhochschule. The project aims to enhance the autonomy and responsibility of higher education institutions, thus creating incentives for an economical and effective use of institutions' budgets. The council argues that doing away with civil servant status for professors and academic assistant staff as quickly as possible would create greater flexibility in future staffing.
It says responsibility for construction work or renting premises should in future no longer reside with the state government, but in the universities and technical universities. In order to improve infrastructure, institutions should be able to lease suitable accommodation to, say, bookshops or cafes.
The council also argues that public service regulations impose critical restrictions on the economic activities of institutions and is calling for a review. New recommendations are being compiled.
CHE's sympathies with tuition fees found little favour with students. But civil servant status among academic staff is a different matter, and in the past, student representatives have frequently questioned what they maintain is a very low degree of accountability on the one hand and the considerable privileges that professors enjoy via their status on the other.