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Already in December 2012, Germany’s new Academic Freedom Act entered into force. The piece of legislation applies to the country’s non-university research institutes (Max Planck Society, Fraunhofer Society, Helmholtz Centres, Leibniz Institutions, and the German Research Association, DFG), as well as to the Humboldt Foundation and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). The name of the law is somewhat misleading. This is not about academic freedom in the classical sense, which Germany already enjoys, but about the removal of financial and administrative obstacles and red tape.
The Academic Freedom Act grants the research institutes and other institutions in question greater budgetary flexibility, which, the government hopes, will lead to enhanced effectiveness and efficiency and therefore, ultimately, better results. Lump sum budgets are being introduced for staff and physical resources. The use of third-party funds (with the aim of attracting or retaining top researchers) will be facilitated. The institutions will also be able to more easily invest themselves in company shares, through a simplified authorization procedure. The procedures for the construction of research buildings will also be simplified. The law was passed after a pilot phase (the Academic Freedom Initiative), the results of which were regarded as encouraging.Federal Ministry of Education and Research