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Tight purses cast shadow on university survey

Finances are an increasing concern for Germany's rectors, according to an annual survey undertaken by the Stifterverband, an association of German research funders.

The Hochschul-Barometer found that in 2012, 45 per cent of rectors felt their universities were struggling financially. This was up 16 per cent from 2011. In addition, the rectors did not believe the situation would improve any time soon.

Money is particularly tight when it comes to refurbishing and equipping universities and hiring staff, according to the Stifterverband.

The barometer allows rectors to rate issues in higher education on a scale of -100 to +100. Rectors said their overall satisfaction with higher education in Germany was +22, down 3 points from 2011.

Rectors at traditional universities were more negative, giving a score of +9, than leaders of private universities and universities of applied sciences, who rated their satisfaction at about +40.

A total of 90 per cent of surveyed rectors said the German government should do more to finance higher education, to make up for spending cuts in the federal states. In Germany, federal states are responsible for base funding of higher education. The federal government only supplies competitive grants and some excellence-related funding.

Considering the negative outlook for financing, it is surprising that rectors were generally more comfortable with competition than in earlier surveys. The average value chosen for satisfaction with competitiveness was +62, the highest ever in this category, the Stifterverband said.