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Change law quickly to save cash-short unis, say rectors

German governments must quickly implement a law change that will allow joint funding for research institutions to boost the country’s science profile, the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) has urged.

Higher education institutions need urgent funding to cope with increased student numbers and budget shortages in some Länder, the HRK said on 19 March.

Its president, Margret Wintermantel, said that since a decision had already been reached, governments must act speedily.

“We want an improvement to our laws that allows funding cooperation between federal government and Länder to boost funding for higher education,” she said.

Existing special programmes were a helpful short-term solution, but could not guarantee the quality of research and teaching, she said.

In early March the coalition government backed the law change. Previously, direct funding to research institutions was available only through Länder governments, while the federal government could only fund research projects and offer time-limited, competitive institutional grants.

Urging the Bundestag (Parliament) to act fast, she warned that too much talk and brooding could water down the proposal.

“It seems absurd that those who have seen the necessity of this law change, and agree that it corrects an obvious mistake in our basic law, are now about to talk down a simple solution instead of taking action,” she said.

The HRK has been instrumental in bringing about a change to the law, on the grounds that that more direct funding could boost higher education competitiveness and allow the government to give emergency cash injections to financially-struggling research institutions.

However, some federal states, particularly the wealthier ones, have warned that the law change must not result in liberal non-competitive funding of weaker institutions.

“What we do not need is funding according to the watering-can principle,” where money goes everywhere, said Wolfgang Heubisch, Bavaria’s science minister.