Science: Berlin consortium agreement: will universities be given a permanent contract?

Twilight eligibility? Humboldt University in Mitte

Photo: dpa/Annette Riedel

While the capital city lags behind other federal states in many areas, it rivals the best when it comes to universities. So expectations were high as to how the prestigious region would be factored into the alliance agreement. Universities’ core funding has already been hacked by five percent each year. Future Governor Kay Wegner (CDU) spoke of an “investment in smart minds.”

Soon after learning this, university presidents welcomed the increase in funds, but at the same time doubted that it would be sufficient to absorb the projected increase in personnel costs given the wage agreements. The coalition deal now shows that the CDU and SPD also want to exempt universities from pension payments. Moreover, the autonomy of universities will be enhanced by allowing universities to appoint professors independently. Previously, this was reserved for the state. Curious: Coalition partners also want continuous hours for at least one university library. The 24-hour library is a project close to the heart of the CDU parliamentary group’s science policy spokesperson, Adrian Grasse. So far he was alone with the claim. The request is now included in the coalition agreement, which otherwise bears the signature of the Social Democrats in the scientific chapter.

However, the devil is in the details: one clause in the coalition agreement in particular is likely to cause contentious debates. At its core is a controversial law in Berlin’s higher education law. According to her, postdoctoral positions funded with core funds should be permanent. The university administration criticized the fact that the regulation prevents the renewal of cadres and places a heavy financial burden on universities. Women’s rights advocates have also criticized the law because men who, on average, complete doctorates more quickly can keep positions open. The then-red-green-red Senate argued for the need to create safe working conditions.

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The new coalition agreement states that the principle that jobs financed by core funds must be permanent must continue to apply. However, this should only apply to jobs that do not serve the purpose of educational qualification. These qualification points will be expanded in turn. Tobias Schulz, science policy spokesman for the left-wing faction, says on Twitter that permanent rules need to be “polished”. He writes: “Apparently, universities are supposed to make a voluntary decision to extend their term.”

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