University reform law struck down by court
27 July 2004, KARLSRUHE - Germany's constitutional court Tuesday struck down a federal law that makes it easier for brilliant younger academics to move into top university jobs, ruling that it interferes with the rights of the 16 German states.
27 July 2004
KARLSRUHE - Germany's constitutional court Tuesday struck down a federal law that makes it easier for brilliant younger academics to move into top university jobs, ruling that it interferes with the rights of the 16 German states.
The Social Democrat and Greens government led by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has sought to make German universities more competitive on a global basis, but three conservative states, Bavaria, Saxony and Thuringia, challenged the law.
They said the creation of a new degree, halfway between a doctorate and a full professorship, diluted high German standards.
Berlin has been trying to speed up academic life in Germany, where most graduates need four to six years to obtain a first degree and most academics pass their 40th birthday before being made professors, with the introduction of three-year bachelor programmes as well as assistant professorships backed by federal funds.
In a 5-3 decision, the Karlsruhe-based court said the 2002 law setting out a standard qualification programme to become an assistant professor infringed on the rights of each state enshrined in the constitution to oversee education.
It said the federal authorities could only set the framework and must leave details of the university system to the states.
The law had undermined the grandeur of the process of becoming a professor, called "habilitation", in which a candidate spends years conducting research and being examined before qualifying for a university chair.
The course of study to qualify for the junior professorship lasts a maximum of six years. Many of the nearly 1,000 graduates who have obtained the qualification since the new law was introduced however complain that they still cannot obtain university posts.
Amid criticism that German universities were less dynamic than their US counterparts, the law was aimed at getting bright academics with fresh ideas onto university faculties by their 30s.
Subject: German news