Open German ivory towers, experts demand

Nieuws | de redactie
1 maart 2012 | Angela Merkel’s HE expert panel urges that German universities needed to open their doors to students from nontraditional backgrounds: every qualified apprentice or citizen over 40 should get access to higher education. This is imperative given the demographic change and skills shortage.

In 2006, Chancellor Angela Merkel proclaimed that Germany wouldturn into a “Bildungsrepublik” fostering higher education, LifeLong Learning and the upgrading of its labor force. A Commission ofExperts was appointed monitoring that the implementation of reformsproceeded properly. Now, this very commission urged in its newestreport that German universities should providehigher education to a much greater public.

Fighting demographic change and skillsshortage

More concretely, Merkel’s expert panel demands that universitiesshould be opened to qualified apprentices and all citizens olderthan 40 – independent of whether they passed the German Abitur ornot. Right now, 98% of all students gain access to universitieshaving completed their advanced high school degree (Abitur).

According to the Commission of Experts, this is an unbearablesituation given an aging population and the impending retirement ofmany academics at universities. The labor market would furthermorebe constrained by a skill shortage.  

“Germany’s role as a hotspot for innovation could be damaged, ifthe government does not manage to improve our current education andtraining system.” Merkel’s panel fears that Germany could fallbehind internationally. Study success at universities was increasedfrom 18% to 25% since 2000. Other OECD countries meanwhile managedto boost study success from 28% to 38%.

Part-time education key to new strategy

The wall between vocational and academic education needed to bebroken down. In this context, universities needed to decide ontheir new role and mission. This mission should include “educatingof citizens from non-academic backgrounds” and “offering ofpart-time studies which can be concluded alongside professionalactivities”.

The latter is currently fiercely debated in the Netherlands aswell. The Education Ministry is said to work on plans to scrap public subsidies for part-time highereducation. Stakeholders warn that this could have “devastating”consequences for Life Long Learning efforts of the past.


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