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Germany

Plan to Create a 'German Harvard' Sparks Debate

Germany’s ruling Social Democrat party (SPD) sparked a wave of controversy on Monday, when it announced plans to create a German elite university based on U.S. models, like Harvard. The SPD general secretary, Olaf Scholz, put forth the proposal -- part of a larger effort by the party to launch a “innovation initiative” in 2004 -- at a party retreat in Weimar over the weekend. The plan, which initially saw the creation of at least one elite institution, but has since grown to include as many as ten, could be adapted as early as 2010 and cost as much as €60 to €100 million per year. At a time when Germany’s existing universities are struggling financially and many students have been out on strike, the plan proved controversial among the SPD’s own members, their coalition partners, the Greens, and the Christian Democratic opposition party, the CDU. The head of the Green party, Reinhard Bütikofer, said, “if we have a ‘German Harvard’ and everything else stays the same, then we will have achieved nothing.”