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End to military conscription could overwhelm universities

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End to military conscription could overwhelm universities
Photo: DPA
10:28 CEST+02:00
Germany's planned end to military conscription and its alternative Zivildienst public service could burden universities with up to 50,000 additional students next year, experts warned on Tuesday.

Though it still awaits official approval, Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg's military reform plan aims to modernise the Bundeswehr by cutting compulsory military service to create a smaller, more efficient professional force.

Guttenberg has previously flagged a reduction in personnel from the present 250,000 to as few as 163,500, though last month government sources said the figure was more likely to be around 180,000.

Cutting conscription will also mean an end to the Zivildienst public service programme, where young men choose to work in social and community facilities instead of joining the Bundeswehr.

“This could mean that in 2011 universities will have to take on an additional 50,000 students,” head of Germany's state education affairs conference (KMK) Ludwig Spaenle told daily Handelsblatt.

The run on universities would come at an unfavourable time because institutions had already expected record enrolment figures between 2011 and 2014, said Spaenle, who is also Bavaria's Education Minister.

The KMK has therefore created a special committee to review the educational consequences of Guttenberg's reforms.

“It is likely that an expansion on educational reforms will be necessary,“ Spaenle said.

In the coming year the states of Lower Saxony and Bavaria expect to see the number of students entering universities double, explained Margret Wintermantel, head of the German Rector's Conference (HRK).

“This situation will intensify with the end of conscription,” she said.

Universities will do everything they can to meet the challenge, though, she told Handelsblatt.

“But for that there must be flexibility with the education reforms. Funding will have to flow earlier than previously planned,” she said.

Guttenberg's reforms must be approved at party conventions for Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) in mid-November and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), in late October, after which they can be presented to parliament.

DPA/ka

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