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The right to fund is normally one of the easiest to get. Not so in German higher education. Since a reform of the country’s constitution (Grundgesetz) in 2006, there has been a “cooperation ban” , preventing the federal government from co-funding the country’s higher education institutions except in exceptional cases and for limited periods of time. Exceptions were labelled ‘projects’, some of which could take substantial dimensions, however, such as the well-known Excellence Initiative.
The strange ban has now largely been lifted by yet another change of the constitution, which was approved by the necessary two-thirds majorities in both chambers of parliament (Bundestag and Bundesrat) in November and December respectively. The cooperation ban had originally been introduced based on an initiative of the Länder. Since many of them are notoriously short of cash, this seemed an odd move. But the real motivation had been for the Länder to keep the more or less sole mandate for higher education institutions. In order to them to agree to federal co-funding, assurances had to be given that the prime power over German higher education would still remain with the Länder.