Student protests prod officials toward education reforms

Student protests prod officials toward education reforms
Photo: DPA
The massive student protests across Germany this week appear to have prodded officials to undertake educational reforms, including changes to bachelor's programmes and financial aid.

Lower Saxony’s Science Minister Lutz Stratmann told Oldenburg’s daily Nordwest Zeitung that the state would tweak the new degree system implemented as part of the European Bologna reforms.

“We need to bring back more mobility and there has to be less emphasis on testing,” Stratmann said, adding that more courses should be offered in an eight-semester bachelor’s degree format.

On Tuesday, more than 85,000 students took to the streets in a collective call for improvements to Germany’s education system. Munich, Berlin, Freiburg and Cologne saw the most number of students with smaller university communities staging protests in lecture halls across the country. The demonstrations are expected to continue into December.

The students are angry about changes that are part of the Bologna process, meant to bring standardised bachelor’s and master’s programmes to European universities. They are also opposed to the introduction of modest tuition fees and what many consider the chronic underfunding of education in Germany.

Protesting students also complain some institutions have failed to adapt programmes to the shortened period of time required to complete a degree. Others say that there are not enough entrance spots available to those wishing to attend university in Germany.

German Education Minister Annette Schavan (CDU) has admitted there are problems with the new system and said that adding to the resources for students via the German financial aid system known as BaföG was a top priority for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s new coalition government.

“Increasing the BaföG is the right way to go and I plan on putting it in front of the states and the federal cabinet,” Schavan told the daily Berliner Zeitung on Wednesday.

Only two weeks ago, Schavan dismissed the idea of increasing student financial aid in the foreseeable future.

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