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German U15: German Research Universities Join Forces to Promote Their Interests

№ 299/2012 from Oct 12, 2012

In a quest to improve conditions for science, research, and teaching, 15 research-oriented universities with medical schools have launched an association to jointly promote their strategic interests. Their objective is to increase the awareness of the teaching and research performance, the social influence, and the knowledge-creating and economic potential of leading German comprehensive universities among the political and economic leaders and the general public. On the occasion of the founding of German U15, the mission and the future fields of activity of the association were presented to the public today – Friday, October 12, 2012 – in Berlin, where the association is headquartered.

The member universities intend to cooperate closely to improve the conditions for top-level research, research-oriented teaching, and support for junior researchers, and to highlight the importance of the role that large comprehensive universities play in society. Prof. Dr. Bernhard Eitel, Rector of Heidelberg University and Chairperson of U15, explained: “Even before the Excellence Initiative, we knew that there is no such thing as ‘the university.’ Universities – and other institutions of higher education – have different tasks, potentials, and competences in an academic landscape whose institutions complement each other. This is why the U15 demands that this ‘division of labor’ be considered in legislative procedures, in the allocation of tasks, and in the distribution of funding.” He went on to state that the potential of the various institutional types must be used in the best possible manner to benefit the German higher education system as a whole. The point, according to Prof. Eitel, is not to proclaim something “good” or “bad,” but to make better use of the complementarity of educational institutions in research and teaching.

German U15 Vice Chairperson and President of Freie Universität Berlin, Prof. Dr. Peter-André Alt, stressed that the universities in the U15 see themselves as research universities in which research and teaching form an inseparable whole. This is possible only if academic freedom and the university’s autonomy are ensured. In times of stagnating or even decreasing core funding, this autonomy is existential, especially for universities that focus on fundamental research. Prof. Alt: “The U15 promotes strength in fundamental research in conjunction with research-oriented teaching in order to bring forth responsible scientists and scholars. Our top priority is to support and foster junior researchers as a way of securing Germany’s and Europe’s future.”

With regard to financial resources for German higher education, the universities in the U15 advocate joint funding by the federal and state governments not just for individual projects, but as a permanent means of financing research and teaching. They believe that political leaders must cross party lines to come to a quick decision regarding a change of the German constitution within the current legislative period. Such a change would allow the federal government and the states to react to the increasingly critical underfunding of higher education institutions in the face of rising student numbers and intensified research performance, and to find solutions for the continuation of funding provided through the Excellence Initiative.

German U15 is an association of Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the universities of Bonn, Frankfurt, Freiburg, Göttingen, Hamburg, Heidelberg, Cologne, Leipzig, and Mainz, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, and the universities of Münster, Tübingen, and Würzburg.

The Board

  • Prof. Dr. B. Eitel, Rector of Heidelberg University, Chair
  • Prof. Dr. P.-A. Alt, President of Freie Universität Berlin, Vice Chair


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