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The universities in former East Germany are joining forces in trying to attract secondary education graduates from the western Länder with an extensive publicity campaign. In order to reach the target group, the project will take advantage of web applications such as blogs and second life. The coordinated campaign led by Saxony-Anhalt is not enough for Thuringia, though: this year, the latter will also launch an individual advertising campaign, in which it is using one third of the funds accommodated to Higher Education by the Federal Government according to the German Higher Education Pact.
The reason behind the desperation of the eastern Länder is clear: while the western universities are crammed with new students, in the east the lecture halls are emptying. On the one hand, the eastern age-groups graduating from secondary education are getting smaller. In Thuringia, a 20 percent loss in first-year students is to be expected up to 2010. One the other hand, the western youth is not attracted by studying in the eastern Länder, and tends to stay in the more prestigious western universities, regardless of the tuition fess which are not yet charged in the east. The East German graduates also tend to move across to the other side of the country. Through massive advertising, the eastern Länder now hope to alter the somewhat dry image of the region.
This phenomenon is not unique to Germany. All over in Europe the regional development favours some areas over others, thus directing the flows of internal migration. The regions left behind have to find creative solutions in order to improve their condition. Nevertheless, one can’t help but wonder if investing in infrastructure and study conditions instead of advertising campaigns would be a more functional approach in the long run.