In 2006, Chancellor Angela Merkel proclaimed that Germany would
turn into a "Bildungsrepublik" fostering higher education, Life
Long Learning and the upgrading of its labor force. A Commission of
Experts was appointed monitoring that the implementation of reforms
proceeded properly. Now, this very commission urged in its newest
report that German universities should provide
higher education to a much greater public.
Fighting demographic change and skills
More concretely, Merkel's expert panel demands that universities
should be opened to qualified apprentices and all citizens older
than 40 - independent of whether they passed the German Abitur or
not. Right now, 98% of all students gain access to universities
having completed their advanced high school degree (Abitur).
According to the Commission of Experts, this is an unbearable
situation given an aging population and the impending retirement of
many academics at universities. The labor market would furthermore
be constrained by a skill shortage.
"Germany's role as a hotspot for innovation could be damaged, if
the government does not manage to improve our current education and
training system." Merkel's panel fears that Germany could fall
behind internationally. Study success at universities was increased
from 18% to 25% since 2000. Other OECD countries meanwhile managed
to boost study success from 28% to 38%.
Part-time education key to new strategy
The wall between vocational and academic education needed to be
broken down. In this context, universities needed to decide on
their new role and mission. This mission should include "educating
of citizens from non-academic backgrounds" and "offering of
part-time studies which can be concluded alongside professional
The latter is currently fiercely debated in the Netherlands as
well. The Education Ministry is said to work on plans to scrap public subsidies for part-time higher
education. Stakeholders warn that this could have "devastating"
consequences for Life Long Learning efforts of the past.