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Länder plead for more money for stretched universities

Germany should ramp up its higher education funding from 2014 onwards to help universities cope with a surge in student numbers, according to a conference of Länder and federal policymakers.

The annual Gemeinsame Wissenschaftskonferenz (united science conference) heard that universities are struggling to host a double cohort of students resulting from cutting A-level education down from 13 to 12 years. As a result, universities could be in serious financial trouble if their budget is not increased, ministers from the Länder said.

Germany’s universities receive their core funding from the Länder, but the federal government provides a regular funding top-up in the form of a multi-annual budget. The last multi-annual university budget, the so-called Hochschulpakt, was set in 2009, and was meant to last until 2015. However, universities now say that the money will be used up in 2014 if spending continues at current rates.

Some of Germany’s Länder have already changed to the 12-year A-level, but North Rhine-Westphalia, Schleswig-Holstein and Hesse are still making the transition. The German government said in a statement that it recognises the Länders’ needs.

“This is an important signal from the government, and a success for the perseverance of the Länder,” said Svenja Schulze, North Rhine-Westphalia’s science minister, after the meeting. “More university starters must mean more money.”

The German government has not yet released any information on how much universities should get, and when.