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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
National reforms in higher education


14.Ongoing reforms and policy developments

14.4National reforms in higher education

Last update: 22 April 2024


Women Professors Programme 2030

In November 2022, the Joint Science Conference (Gemeinsame Wissenschaftskonferenz – GWK) adopted the Federation-Länder-agreement on the Women Professors Programme 2030. This will bring the Women Professors Programme into a fourth phase. Building on the successful previous three programme phases, the cultural change towards more gender equality at institutions of higher education is to be further strengthened. The aim of the funding programme is to dynamically increase the number of female academics in top positions in the field of science towards parity and to anchor gender equality even more firmly in the structure of institutions of higher education. The institutions of higher education first submit an equality concept; after a successful assessment, they can apply for funding for up to three professorships for women. The programme is funded in equal parts by the Länder and the Federation, whereby in Bayern the counter-financing comes from the budget of the respective institution of higher education. The "Professorinnenprogramm 2030" will run for eight years (2023 to 2030) and has a total funding volume of Euro 320 million.

More detailed information on the Women Professors Programme are available in the chapter on higher education funding.

Future Contract Strengthening Teaching and Learning

The Federation and the Länder are providing institutions of higher education with additional funding to maintain study capacities in line with demand and to improve the quality of studies and teaching with the Future Contract for Teaching and Learning. In their agreement on the Future Contract in 2019, the heads of government of the federal and Länder governments agreed that the Federation would provide Euro 1.88 billion annually from 2021 to 2023 and Euro 2.05 billion annually from 2024 onwards. The Länder will provide their own funds in at least the same amount. 

In November 2022, the GWK decided to dynamise the Future Contract from 2023 onwards. According to this, the funds provided by the Federation and the Länder will increase by three percent in 2023 compared to the previous year, by around 5.9 percent in 2024 compared to the previous year, by 1.5 percent in 2025 and by three percent in 2026 and 2027. The Federation and the Länder will each provide a further Euro 338 million in the period from 2023 to 2027 as a result of the agreed dynamisation. With the dynamisation of the Future Contract, the budget development of higher education institutions will be aligned with that of non-university research institutes.


Effects of the energy crisis on the scientific sector

The committees of the Standing Conference have dealt intensively with the effects of the energy crisis on institutions of higher education, university hospitals, non-university research institutions and student services. Due to the importance of institutions of higher education as educational institutions and in view of the high demand for skilled workers, the Conference of Education Ministers has advocated in particular that institutions of higher education, university hospitals, research institutions and student services be treated as "protected customers" within the meaning of the Energy Industry Act, the Gas Grid Access Ordinance and the "SoS Ordinance" and that all institutions fall under the protection of the energy price brake.

In view of the particularly explosive nature of the social dimension of the energy crisis for students, the Standing Conference held talks with the BMBF on ways to support students in need as well as help for the student unions as institutions providing social services for students. The last consultations at the end of 2022 concerned the handling of the one-off payment of Euro 200 for students and certain groups of students provided for in the Student Energy Price Allowance Act (EPPSG). The statutory deadline for applying for payment of the energy price flat rate has now expired. In the period from February 28 to October 2, 2023, a total of more than 2.8 million applications were paid out and students and (vocational) students were supported with around Euro 568 million.

Measures for dealing with the coronavirus

In order to continue to support institutions of higher education, teaching staff and students in dealing with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany has decided on measures to continue to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic in the higher education sector in 2022 and, in particular, to organize the 2022 summer semester. The aim was to ensure a responsible return to the institutions of higher education and thus a normal university day in attendance.

The Länder have responded to the fact that the pandemic – in addition to the social consequences – has in some cases caused severe psychological stress for students by expanding counseling services. In order to strengthen students' mental health in the long term, study-related measures such as (elective) courses and mentoring programmes can also have a supportive effect.

The pandemic has also had an impact on the progress of at least some students. The Länder have approached the federal government to support students in their efforts to successfully continue their studies in terms of content and organization. This applies, for example, to catching up on study content, courses, examinations and external internships and also includes the provision of the necessary counseling services.

Post-qualification of teachers for physical education in primary schools

In September 2022, the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany (Kultusministerkonferenz) adopted a recommendation on the "Post-qualification of teachers for physical education in primary schools" (‘Nachqualifizierung von Lehrkräften für den Sportunterricht in der Grundschule‘). The resolution is based on the "Joint Recommendations for Action by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder and the German Olympic Sports Confederation for the Further Development of School Sport 2017 to 2022" (‘Gemeinsame Handlungsempfehlungen der Kultusministerkonferenz und des Deutschen Olympischen Sportbundes zur Weiterentwicklung des Schulsports 2017 bis 2022‘), concretises the aspect of the deployment of qualified teachers in primary school physical education from the "Declaration of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany (KMK) on Quality Assurance in Primary School Physical Education" (‘Erklärung der Kultusministerkonferenz der Länder in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (KMK) zur Qualitätssicherung des Sportunterrichts im Primarbereich‘) of 2009 and takes into account the following resolutions of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs:

“Content requirements for subject-related studies and subject-related didactics in teacher training which apply to all Länder” ('Ländergemeinsame inhaltliche Anforderungen für die Fachwissenschaften und Fachdidaktiken in der Lehrerbildung' (Resolution of the Standing Conference of 16 October 2008 as amended on 16.05.2019),

"Common guidelines of the Länder for the In-service Training of Teachers as a component of their professionalisation in the third phase of teacher training" ('Ländergemeinsame Eckpunkte zur Fortbildung von Lehrkräften als ein Bestandteil ihrer ihrer Professionalisierung in der dritten Phase der Lehrerbildung') (Resolution of the Standing Conference of 12 March 2020).

In particular, the recommendation takes into account the results of the expert day "Quality assurance in school sport" held by the Commission for Sport on 18 September 2019 in Berlin, which are summarised in the report on the conceptualisation and implementation of post-qualification offers in the subject of sport for primary school teachers.

In order to continue to ensure a high quality of physical education, especially in the primary sector, which is particularly important for child development, qualified teachers who can plan and implement physical education lessons in a differentiated manner are required on the basis of the Länder-specific regulations.

Especially in view of the class teacher principle of many Länder within the primary school, a high-quality post-qualification for teachers who have not been trained in the subject of physical education is therefore of particular importance.

Measures to support refugee scientists and students from Ukraine

With the beginning of Russia's war against Ukraine, the Länder and the Federal Government have made great efforts to counter the effects of the war. In the Lübeck Declaration, the ministers of the Federation and the Länder responsible for science declared their full solidarity with Ukrainian scientists and students. On the initiative of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministeriums für Bildung und Forschung – BMBF), the science ministries of the Länder and the Alliance of Science Organisations, a central contact point for stu-dents and scientists was created at the German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst – DAAD), through which information on concrete support measures by the Federal Government, Länder, institutions of higher education, science organisations, student unions and foundations was bundled and made accessible.

The Länder are grateful to the higher education institutions for the numerous other support measures and offers. As an example, the so-called multifactor test, which serves as a substitute for the regular state examination for the acquisition of a Ukrainian higher education entrance qualification that will not take place in 2022, is being conducted at six German higher education institutions.


Measures for handling the COVID-19 virus

In order to continue to support institutions of higher education, teachers and students in dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs in the Federal Republic of Germany (Kultusministerkonferenz) has also decided on measures for the organisation of teaching in 2021. This was intended to give institutions of higher education as much flexibility as possible, but also reliability and planning security, while at the same time avoiding disadvantages for students. In addition, the higher education institutions, with great effort and support from the Länder, further accelerated the use and expansion of digital tools to maintain teaching operations during the Covid19 pandemic in 2021. The resulting flexibilisation can benefit non-traditional students (e.g. professionally qualified students or students with family responsibilities) as well as foreign students. The digitalisation of teaching can contribute to the opening of higher education institutions to target groups whose individual life situation makes it difficult to take up or continue a course of study that follows the framework conditions of an exclusively face-to-face institution.

The COVID-19 pandemic posed financial challenges for many students. In connection with the pandemic, adjustments have been made to the implementation of the Federal Training Assistance Act (Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz – BAföG) so that students do not suffer any disadvantages due to the pandemic. For example, pandemic-related study delays were recognised as a serious reason for funding beyond the maximum funding period. The Länder have also adopted regulations on extending the standard individual period of study, which were directly implemented in the BAföG. Special regulations have also been made in the BAföG for the promotion of education abroad. For example, since the 2020/21 winter semester, study programmes abroad have been eligible for funding under certain conditions even if they are temporarily offered entirely online without a stay in the host country.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung – BMBF) has created a bridging aid for students who do not meet the criteria of the BAföG (e.g. exceeding the standard period of study, second degree) – or for those who find themselves in a pandemic-related emergency situation despite receiving support. This comprises two elements: the long-standing student loan from the Reconstruction Loan Corporation (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau – KfW) and grants distributed by the student unions.

  • The students concerned were able to apply for a loan from KfW, which was interest-free for all from 8 May 2020 to 20 September 2022 and will remain so until the end of 2021, and for which the application process was also open to foreign students from June 2020 to March 2021. This group can continue to draw the loan until the end of their respective studies in Germany. The interest-free loan could be paid out in an amount of up to 650 euros per month and could be applied for online in an unbureaucratic way.
  • In addition, the BMBF, through the German Student Services Association (Deutsches Studierendenwerk - DSW) and the local student and student services organizations, has provided Euro 100 million for students in pandemic related emergency situations. The grant could be applied for from June to September 2020 and from November 2020 to September 2021.

Some Länder have set up their own emergency funds.

Numerous legal adjustments were made in the Länder to counter the effects of the pandemic on the operations of higher education institutions. For example, some regulations were created to allow exams to be taken online.

In May 2020, the Federal Government amended the Academic Fixed-Term Contract Law (Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz – WissZeitVG) and extended the statutory maximum limit for academic and artistic staff in their qualification phase as part of a transitional arrangement.

In addition, the BMBF has made use of all possibilities for more flexibility in project funding, for example by granting appropriate extensions of project duration. Similarly, the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft – DFG), with the support of its funding bodies, provided a wide range of compensatory, bridging and phase-out funding at an early stage and created opportunities for project extensions. Other funding organizations, such as the German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst – DAAD) or the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH), have also taken appropriate measures.