October 30, 2019

Increased criticism of university funding negotiations – petition issued

The negotiations of the university funding agreement have yet to deliver a satisfactory result. The Landesstudierendenvertretung Baden-Württemberg has criticized this as “a farce" and would like to remind people to sign the petition for an adequately funded university system. The petition has already been signed by 21,000 people in Baden-Württemberg.

In a recent press release about the negotiations for future funding of Baden-Württemberg’s universities, the Landesstudierendenvertretung Baden-Württemberg stated that the adjustments made to university funding are “entirely inadequate”, decrying the negotiations are “a farce“. The demands made by the Landesstudierendenvertretung have not yet been met, and any agreements made up to this point do not cover university funding requirements. The organization also states that the communication of information to the Ministry of Science, Research and Art (MWK) is inadequate. 

The Landesstudierendenvertretung Baden-Württemberg has already demanded several times that the federal state government and all political representatives take action – as well as raising public awareness of its petition.The petition has now reached the quorum of 21,000 signatures from people in Baden-Württemberg. OpenPetition, the platform where the petition can be signed, is asking the state parliament for its response.

On October 30, 2019 thousands of students, employees and rectors at universities across Baden-Württemberg responded to the call put out by student representatives and made themselves heard with whistles, rattles, drums and chants at the state-wide day of action on university funding held on October 30, 2019, which called for universities to be given more funding.

The reason for the event was the ongoing negotiations about the university funding agreement from 2021 to 2025, which has yet to reach a satisfactory conclusion. Prof. Wolfram Ressel, Rector at the University of Stuttgart, said that “Universities need significantly more funding to ensure the excellent level of education they provide”. In 2013, a university funding package was developed which was set to last until 2020. This was largely in response to the increased levels of funding required as a result of the rise in the number of students due to the high school reforms, which led to two year groups graduating in the same year. Unexpectedly though, the number of students has stabilized at this much higher level – which means that the increased level of funding needs to be maintained permanently, something which now has to be formalized in the funding package. “Universities strengthen our competitiveness and are essential for a sustainable future”, the rector made clear. He went on to say that the offer made by the state government was nowhere near enough to be able to educate the next generation of trained scientists as before, which the state needs to remain a high-tech powerhouse and remain competitive in the coming decades. “Underfunding universities weakens the economy and weakens the future of Baden-Württemberg”, Ressel said. He highlighted what the consequences would be if the state government didn’t act: “We will most likely have to make cuts.” These cuts could be made to the MINT college and other offers for new students. As well as the increase in basic funding of three percent a year, the university rectors from across the state say that 450 million euros of extra funding will be needed a year.

Theresa Bauer, the Minister of Science, Research and Arts in Baden-Württemberg, said she understood why the students were protesting. “It’s good for students to get involved for causes that matter to them, which in this case is universities getting the funding they need.” She also referred to the financial situation regarding the state budget. Bauer promised to advocate using the fines levied on the automotive industry to top up the basic funding.

Group press release from universities in Baden-Württemberg

The directors of all universities and colleges in the state have openly stated their support for better university funding. To this end, a collective declaration was published in August.

Prof. Wolfram Ressel thanked the students and employees of the University of Stuttgart for their commitment
Prof. Wolfram Ressel thanked the students and employees of the University of Stuttgart for their commitment
[Picture: Uni Stuttgart/Max Kovalenko]
In Stuttgart alone, around 1 000 university students and employees came out to protest.
In Stuttgart alone, around 1 000 university students and employees came out to protest.
[Picture: Uni Stuttgart/Max Kovalenko]
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