Germany: Education or Excellence

In Germany, the institutions of higher education sometimes appear to be bastions of elitism, with the names of schools and universities bearing the names of many (at times it seems like most) of the world’s famous philosophers, scientists and authors.

However, as an article in Times Higher Education notes, the fact is that egalitarianism has been the watchword of much of German higher education policy in the west of Germany as well as the east.

Tuition has generally been free, admission relatively non-selective and all universities funded equally.

At the same time, the system of higher educational in Germany has been in conflict between ‘elite status’, in an international sense, and the proud tradition of ‘egalitarian’ access.

On the one hand, in 2006, the Germany government launched an initiative – the so-called excellence clusters – aimed at propelling some universities into the global research elite (such as Humboldt University).

On the other hand, at about the same time, a 1976 court ruling preventing universities from charging tuition fees was overturned, that paved the way for the Federal States to charge up to 1,000 euros per student in fees. However, political pressure in 2014 led to the entire system of charging for tuition being abolished.

Photo credit: “”. Material used in the preparation of this article has been drawn from Times Higher Education.

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