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Germany: Developments in the Excellence Initiative and tuition fees

On 2 March 2011, results from the third call for proposals of Germany’s Excellence Initiative were announced by the joint committee of the German Research Foundation (DFG) and Science Council (WR). In this pre-proposal phase, 59 out of the 227 project proposals received by the DFG were invited to the next stage. The 59 applications included 29 graduate schools, 27 clusters of excellence and seven future concepts. The deadline for full project proposals is 1 September 2011.

As noted last year (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, March 2010), the second phase of the Excellence Initiative will allocate EUR 2.7 billion over five years starting in 2012. The 59 newly selected applications will, however, compete with the 85 currently funded programmes. The Excellence Initiative began in 2006/07. Final decisions of the second phase will be announced in mid-June 2012.

In the meantime, two recent state elections are further changing the higher education landscape in Germany. On 24 February, North Rhine Westphalia – the country’s most populous state – formally abolished its tuition fees, which were introduced in 2006. Likewise, recent election victories of the Green Party in Baden-Württemberg and the Social Democratic Party in Hamburg all but guarantee an end to tuition fees in these two states. If student contribution is abolished in these states, this would leave Bavaria and Lower Saxony as the only two (out of the Germany’s 16) states to charge tuition fees. Given that existing tuition fees average EUR 469 per semester, this development may not signal much change to the outsider, but the impact of this reversal and how and whether it will affect education quality – for institutions and students – remains to be seen.

Science Council and German Research Foundation – joint press release (in German)

Ministry for Innovation, Science and Research, North Rhine Westphalia (in German) Green Party of Baden-Württemberg (in German) List of tuition fees by federal state (in German)