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Promoting Brain Gain for German Universities

DW staff (win)August 16, 2004

Leading German education experts have called for more autonomy for German universities to improve competitiveness on an international level.

The group wants to give universities more freedom to attract researchersImage: Bilderbox

"Brain Gain instead of Brain Drain" is the motto of the group's list of proposals published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

"We have become a land of emigration as far as science is concerned," the group wrote, adding that many qualified German researchers go abroad to work while few foreigners are interested in coming to do research in Germany.

The experts, including Max Huber, the vice president of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Johanna Hey, a member of the board of the German University Association and Dieter Lenzen, the president of Berlin's Free University, said they hoped to contribute to a reversal of the decline of German universities as internationally recognized research institutions.

Less government, more money

The proposals include far-reaching autonomy for German universities: Federal and state governments should limit regulation to a minimum to enable academic institutions to attract the best researchers.

Should German states be allowed to introduce tuition fees -- the country's constitutional court is expected to rule on the matter in the fall -- universities should be allowed to use the additional funds to improve their academic programs. Government funding should not be reduced as a result.

A second proposal deals with recruiting researchers and students. According to the group, Germany should abolish the so-called Central Distribution Agency, which currently assigns students to universities. At the same time, the government should make it easier for foreign researchers to immigrate.

The group also cited studies saying that about 44 percent of German researchers working abroad would be willing to return home if the situation in Germany improves.

The experts also called on government officials to increase funding for research and development.

"To stay internationally competitive, funding has to be raised to 3.5 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP)," the paper reads. Germany currently spends about 2.5 percent of GDP on research and development. The increased funding should be balanced by scrapping subsidies in other areas, the group wrote.