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German elections 2021: Stakes for higher education

One month before Germany’s federal parliament elections, the German Rectors' Conference (HRK) requested the main political parties that are currently represented in the German federal parliament to present their policies on higher educationIn this framework, the HRK posed the following eight election touchstone questions on 

  • Future funding system for the higher education sector; 
  • Digitalisation of the higher education sector;  
  • Research conducted by higher education institutions;  
  • The academic dimension of healthcare professions;  
  • Academic careers;  
  • BAföG reform;  
  • Knowledge transfer between higher education institutions, economy and society;  
  • The European Research Area and the European Education Area as well as the European Universities Initiative.

Overall, the parties’ positions are in continuity with Germany’s past initiatives in the higher education field and include concrete proposals for further improvements. 

The winning Social Democratic Party (SPD) proposes additional funding to support learning and teaching, particularly in the digital context, as well as a fundamental reform of the student support system (BAFöG). To enhance knowledge transfer between science, society and industry, the Social Democrats suggest creating a ‘German Transfer Society’ to support cross-sector projects looking at both technical issues and methods, and innovation. The SPD stresses that this would also benefit Germany’s universities of applied sciences.  

The second running Christian Democratic Union and Bavaria’s Christian Social Union, which together form the CDU/CSU parliamentary faction, propose to continue improving university teaching in view of the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. They also aim to promote more excellence clusters in research, building on the ‘Excellence Initiative’. Family matters and gender equality as well as flexibilisation of the student aid system (BAFöG) are among the party’s other priorities for the higher education field. 

Germany’s Green party calls for better conditions for both fundamental and applied research, the point that is also supported by the country’s left-wing party (Die Linke). The Free Democratic Party (FDP) advocates for introducing additional quality-based criteria for funding as well as for greater support to cybersecurity in science and digital transformation of education.  

More information 

German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) 

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