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A student holds a piece of cardboard with a message on it at a rally in Bonn on Thursday, Dec. 10
"Without education we are all dumb"Image: AP

University rework

December 10, 2009

As thousands of students rallied in cities across Germany against reforms to the tertiary education system here, the country’s state education ministers surfaced from a meeting with a pledge to rework the new format.


After weeks of student and faculty protests, the education ministers of Germany's 16 states have pledged to redesign recent reforms to the country's university degree system.

Under the changes announced after an Education and Arts Ministry Conference (KMK) meeting in the western German city of Bonn on Thursday, the workload within courses and examination loads are to be lessened, and the length of time it takes to complete a degree will be made more flexible.

The KMK meeting had been called by state education ministers to discuss the widespread discontent on campuses at controversial reforms that have seen the introduction of shorter US-style bachelor's and master's degrees in place of "diplom" courses, which can take anywhere from six to eight years to complete.

Opponents of the new bachelor's-master's structure have argued that the new degrees, which typically only take five years to complete together, attempt to cram too much information into too short a time, and represent a downgrade in the quality of education in Germany.

Also central to students' concerns are tuition fees. They must now pay anywhere between 100 and 500 euros per semester. Student groups say the fees exist as a deterrent for students wishing to take longer to finish their degrees.

Bavarian Education and Arts Minister Ludwig Spaenle
Spaenle had all but ruled out a cancellation of tuition feesImage: AP

However, the education minister from the state of Bavaria, Ludwig Spaenle, had said before the meeting in Bonn that such fees were unlikely to be scrapped.

The new bachelor's-master's format forms part of EU reforms which date back to 1999 and aim to standardize education across all the bloc's 27 member states. The German government plans to have all university students in the country studying under the new system by 2010.

Student pressure

The announcements came as thousands of students held marches in Bonn, Rostock, Halle and Magdeburg to protest the reforms.

In Bonn, over a thousand students gathered in the south of the city to march on the KMK gathering, chanting slogans in defense of the country's former tertiary education system, which placed much less time pressure on students to complete their courses and until recently did not include tuition fees.

Many present at the rally highlighted what they said were restrictions under the new bachelor's-master's system.

"At least make it a little bit more, up to six, seven, eight years, something like that, because with many different fields of study it's just impossible to do that in three years of the bachelor's for example," said Simeon, who recently finished studying design at Cologne University.

"The thing is that everything will be more like school, and you can't choose what you want to learn, and you get even less opportunities to do that within this short system of six semesters, you just can't learn anything," said another student named Benny, who studies education in the nearby town of Paderborn.

Author: Darren Mara
Editor: Ranty Islam

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