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After a long period of slow or no change, developments in German higher education are gaining in speed. With the “initiative for excellence” now under way, the Federal Minister of Education, Dr. Schavan, and her colleagues from the 16 German states agreed in principle on a new “higher education pact”. This pact is to result in additional funds for the country’s’ higher education institutions in the coming years, to cope with an expected sharp increase in student enrolment.
The agreement, which was arrived at in a “secret meeting,” the results of which leaked out immediately, comes as a surprise at a time when the Länder seem to have finally won the battle over the future competency in education. For Germany's “grand coalition” also decided in February on the major points of a constitutional reform, which would do away with the – already weak – federal mandate in higher education in the future. That the so far rather obstructive states now appear to follow an initiative of the Federal Minister can only be explained by the fact that Dr. Schavan represents a government formed by the two big parties, and that she is, unlike her predecessor, a Christian Democrat, as are most of her Länder colleagues.
Germany also launched a student loan system, to be financed through one of the country’s public banks. Loans had already been available on a means-tested basis for students from modest backgrounds, but the new loans will be available to all students.