Press release ¤ Information de presse

May 12, 2006

ACHEMA News: Elite Universities – Vision and Reality

Panel discussion
Forum, Ground Floor, HotSpot
18 May 2006, 11.00 a.m.

Do we need them or not? Maybe we already have them? Elite universities are a subject of hot debate at the national and regional level in Germany. However, the real elite which shows genuine “class” is already out there.

Because Germany does not have any significant natural resources, a highly-qualified workforce actually is the country’s most important resource. The academic performance of our universities is good, but owe are now living off our reputation, and China and other countries are catching up.

You hear again and again that we need to invest more in the future and that education and research must be given top priority. The goods news is that the German government has announced a plan to spend 6 billion euros between now and 2009 to support world-class research and leading-edge technology.

However, the universities will also have to do their homework to achieve significant efficiency improvements.

What benefits do programs of excellence actually produce? Do universities get funding or inspiration? Are our universities competitive compared to other universities around the world? Will we succeed in overcoming obstacles to change? Does the length of our degree programs or the number of students who leave without getting a degree indicate the quality of a university? What role does lobbying play in elite education? What is the untapped potential?

Professor Dagmar Schipanski, President of the Thüringen State Legislature, argues that “competitiveness has to be one of the goals of higher education policy. Universities also need to have more freedom and autonomy. We need to cut back on bureaucratic interference”. Professor Schipanski’s views are based on her own extensive academic career at the University of Applied Sciences in Ilmenau and her experience as Chairman of the German National Science Council and President of the National Education Conference. “If we want to have world-class universities in Germany, then we should not blindly copy Anglo-American models. We should concentrate instead on our strengths and need to ensure that our teaching and research activities remain competitive at a high level. It would be a mistake only to focus on elite universities at the expense of the rest the universities around the country.”

A high-profile panel of experts will discuss these and other issues at the session entitled “Elite Universititäten – Vision und Realität”.

The following persons will take part in the discussions:

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Wolfgang A. Herrmann
TU München

Prof. Dr. Dieter Jahn
BASF Aktiengesellschaft, Ludwigshafen

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Matthias Kleiner
Universität Dortmund

Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Dagmar Schipanski
Thüringer Landtag, Erfurt

Dr. Regina Oehler-van Gemmeren (Moderation)
Hessischer Rundfunk, Frankfurt am Main



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