The Berlin Higher Education Act has a new name – and it is likely to be controversial, at least in university administration. The “Law to Strengthen Berlin Science” was passed on Thursday evening in a second reading with votes for a red-red-green government coalition in the House of Representatives.
The State Conference of Rectors and Presidents (LKRP) warned of a weakening of the scientific landscape since the first draft of the amendment. Threatening “a drastic reduction in their productivity”, Berlin’s route to a scientific space of international importance is “in question”.
The widespread criticism was primarily aimed at reforming the “trial clause”, which has allowed universities to try new management models and thus simplified the decision-making process for more than 20 years. In the new “innovation clause,” it applies to fewer paragraphs of the University Act – and academic senators would have to agree.
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Some of the university’s points of political controversy
The coalitionists haven’t changed anything, and any last-minute amendments made by the CDU and FDP haven’t helped either. However, beyond this rather abstract problem, the reform now adopted version provides further concrete points of friction that are likely to occupy higher education policy in the coming years.
Science policy spokeswoman for the SPD, Ina Sibora, was already in a festive mood on her way to the House of Representatives that morning. “In dress in the House of Representatives to pass legislation to strengthen Berlin science,” she tweeted – accompanied by a portrait in a red blazer and dress.
Permanent position for successful postdoc
One sticking point, as noted in the latest amendment to the draft, which was approved by the science committee and main committee against votes of the opposition, is the tenure track for postdocs.
There is a longstanding demand of academic mid-level employees and the Trade Union for Education and Science that academic staff be offered to qualifying positions, for example for doctorates or accommodation, with the possibility of an extended period after the first temporary position if they Achieve agreed goals.
In Article 110, Article 6 of the “Act for the Strengthening of Berlin Science” it now states, “It may be agreed with Wiemis who are doing doctorates that after a fixed-term employment relationship, a permanent employment relationship will end”. A can-do rule against which there has been no protest from the university administration so far.
However, if academic staff have “already obtained a doctorate degree and are preparing to remain in their temporary position, if they gain teaching experience or have other prerequisites for placement, then” A follow-up commitment must be agreed”. Hence it is not an optional provision, but mandatory for all universities.
Tenure tracks also “usually” for junior professionals
It is still a matter of dispute how many postdocs will actually apply to universities. Mittalbau Delegates: Inside doubts that this may happen in only ten percent of positions, university management warns of a “cemented personnel structure”. Subsequent generations would have no prospect of a career at university “for years and decades,” as LKRP explained.
Here too, the CDU and the FDP brought an amendment according to which extension of the deadline “should always be checked on a case-by-case basis” and that no automaticity should apply to postdocs. The application was rejected by a red-red-green majority.
Incidentally, the tenure track is now even more binding for junior professors who are limited to six years. As a rule, when you fill this position, you will receive an appointment to the rank of Professor as a civil servant for life. The requirement that they must meet previously agreed performance requirements also applies to them. Earlier, automatic calling was an option.
SPD MP Ina Cibora emphasized in the debate that fixed-term rules would not cripple universities in the future, but would make them “attractive around the world through good and secure career opportunities”. Leftist MP Tobias Schultz spoke of “good days for Berlin science, and especially for Berlin scientists, people who deserve good working conditions”.
Right for universities of applied sciences to confer doctorates
Another important point is likely to be the right to award doctorates to universities of applied sciences – again from the point of view of universities, which have always been against it. This change also appeared late in the bill, when FH vehemently protested that it had been sidelined.
Ok so: “University of Applied Sciences” (HAW) – technical college should be off the table at the end with the amendment to the term – “get the right to award doctorates in a research environment in which they have done substantial research for the duration of several year”, it says in section 2, paragraph 6.
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For other, less research-intensive fields, however, cooperative doctorates with universities must remain. HAW graduates have to seek co-supervision at a university, which often fails not only in Berlin.
“The introduction of the right to award doctorates for research-intensive fields ultimately ends structural discrimination against universities of applied sciences,” said a recent statement from six universities in Berlin.
HTW Berlin President and University Management spokesman Carsten Busch announced that they can now fulfill their legal mandate for research and use “the potential of HAW graduates” for application-oriented research.
New Commissioner for Diversity and Anti-Discrimination
The changes brought about by the amendment to the Higher Education Act also include “representative of diversity and anti-discrimination” to be introduced to women and equality officers that have existed for decades. They will be located “centrally” and will be provided with human and material resources.
The rejected amendment from the CDU and the FDP states that universities should only have “contact points for diversity and discrimination”. Thus structures that have already been installed can be maintained and thus generate less additional cost. AfD MP Martin Treffer sharply criticized the appointment of diversity officers.
In the debate, CDU member Adrian Grass once again warned against “huge additional costs” and “expanded, over-regulated universities” as a result of the amendment. It means “bureaucracy rather than freedom of research”.
Simplifications for students provided for in the amendment include the introduction of the right to part-time study.
Amendments to the Higher Education Act are considered the legacy of Michael Mueller, the outgoing governing mayor and senator for science, and his Secretary of State Stephen Krach (both SPD). It is, however, up to their successors to negotiate details of implementation and funding with universities and colleges for applied science.
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