Academic Reform in Germany: A Long Way to Go

None of the discussions in Germany's scientific community are as complex and diverse as the issue of academic reform. Just about everyone who is involved in the higher educational system in Germany--students, teachers, researchers, scientific staff, and professors--is affected in one way or the other by the many questions that are being raised, and there is plenty of reform work from the legislative side that is yet to come.

Young scientists who are at the beginning of their career provide a huge portion of academic services at Germany's universities and will be the ones mostly affected by reforms, because the major part of their career still lies ahead. But what are the issues that are of importance to the next wave of young scientists?

While there's a general agreement on the fact that major reforms are necessary to prepare Germany, its educational system, and research institutions for the 21st century, there's hardly any agreement at all about what exactly has to be changed and how it can be implemented. The federal government, especially research minister Edelgard Bulmahn, is trying to breathe new life into the traditional institutions. The reaction to the wind of change is both support and resistance among the different groups at the universities.

Because confusion is mixed with controversy in this discussion, Next Wave Germany has decided to give this discussion a structure and at the same time deliver the issues to your screen. We would like to put the focus on various questions that are being aired in connection with academic reforms in Germany. And because most of the topics are controversial, we have invited individuals with different points of view to offer their perspectives on the more critical questions so that you can hear both pro and con arguments and get the big picture rather than excerpts.

On an occasional basis, we will report on issues such as tuition and fees for students, working conditions for young researchers now and in the future, and conventional or alternative ways of financing universities and research. Also, we would like to discuss efforts to fight the problem that there are not enough young Germans deciding to pursue university studies today, the decreasing birth rate, how to assure a high-quality education, and how to attract more international students and young scientists to Germany. The series will also include contributions from all major German parties' spokespersons on education prior to the federal elections coming up in the fall of 2002. We want to make sure that you know who best represents your interests.

Please remember: Science's Next Wave is focused on the needs of young scientists. So we are extremely interested in hearing from you what issues are currently of concern for you and your studies or research. Do you have any suggestions about other issues in the academic reform debate we should definitely include? If you think so, please send us an e-mail so we can include your suggestions in our plans.

The series will start next week with an article about all that matters--money and university financing.

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