Almost 100,000 students took to the streets of over 40 German cities last week protesting a number of ongoing reforms of third-level education in the Federal Republic.
Student protest related primarily to the introduction of a combination Bachelor-Masters study programme, as well as the introduction tuition fees, and access to graduate programmes.
The largest protests took place in Hamburg, where ten thousand took part, and in Cologne where a further three thousand demonstrators took to the streets.
The higher education system in Germany has undergone massive reforms following the Bologna Accords, an EU agreement which strives to standardise higher education throughout Europe. Among the agreement’s aims are to make higher education “more compatible and comparable, more competitive and more attractive for Europeans and for students and scholars from other continents.”
Many students have complained that condensing longer study programmes, which in Germany traditionally span seven or eight semesters, to a standardised duration of three years has increased the academic workload and pressure on students. They have complained of intensified timetables, and some fear that the combination programme might lead to the devaluation of the newly reformed Bachelor’s degree in the eyes of employers when compared to previous qualifications.
Furthermore, while Bologna aims to integrate higher education across the European Union, protestors also feel that the new combined system may make it more difficult for students to spend a semester abroad. German students already experience difficulty in this regard as the German university calendar does not perfectly align with those of other EU member states, with semesters running from October to February and from April to July.
The third-level protestors were joined by secondary school pupils, who attended in protest at what they referred to as the “economising of education”, citing a vast increase in average class sizes. Another protest calling for “democratic educational politics” was scheduled to take place today (Tuesday) in Leipzig, timed to coincide with a meeting of national university executives.