Freie Universität Berlin has shifted all its curricula, with the exception of the programs in human medicine, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, and law, to the bachelor/master structure.
The introduction of the bachelor’s and master’s programs started with an initial series of pilot programs right away, in the winter semester of the 2000/2001 academic year. An integral part of this step was the establishment of overall standards to ensure the quality of the new programs. Intensive consultations were held between the university management, the Academic Senate, and the departments, and expert input was obtained. Then, in January, 2001, the Academic Senate adopted its Framework Concept for the Introduction of Bachelor’s and Master’s Programs (Rahmenkonzept für die Einführung von Bachelor- und Master-Studiengängen). This document set out the rules and principles that were to be observed during the introduction of the new programs. Its principal components are ensuring that the program concentrates on a single core subject, introduction of examinations at various points during the curriculum, modularization of course offerings, and the obligatory integration of courses and professional internships aimed at preparing students for their future careers.
In December, 2003, the Academic Senate adopted a new version of the Framework Concept for Bachelor’s and Master’s Programs (Rahmenkonzept für Bachelor- und Master-Studiengänge) as well as its Principles on the Reform of Programs and the Structure of Bachelor’s and Master’s Programs (Grundsätze zur Reform von Studiengängen und zur Gestaltung von Bachelor- und Masterstudiengängen). The basis for both documents was the Common Structural Guidelines pursuant to Sec. 9 Para. 2 of the Framework Act on Higher Education (Hochschulrahmengesetz) for the Accreditation of Bachelor’s and Master’s Programs (Ländergemeinsame Strukturvorgaben gemäß § 9 Abs. 2 HRG für die Akkreditierung von Bachelor- und Master-Studiengängen) adopted by the German Conference of Ministers of Culture on October 10, 2003. In addition, the twelfth Act Amending the Teacher Training Act (Gesetz zur Änderung des Lehrerbildungsgesetzes), dated December 5, 2003, made it necessary to try out new structures for the first phase of teacher training in bachelor’s and master’s programs leading to teaching credentials.
Across-the-board introduction of bachelor’s programs, especially in the subjects in which teaching credentials are offered, began in the winter semester of the 2004/2005 academic year. From the start, Freie Universität Berlin has viewed the implementation of the Bologna reforms as more than just a shift from traditional German curricular structures to bachelor’s and master’s programs. When it introduced the new programs, the university also developed study structures that make full use of all the options offered within the Bologna Process. The result was that at the bachelor’s level, for example, Freie Universität Berlin was able to introduce a number of specific interdisciplinary programs that combine aspects of previously separate programs.
To ensure that the master’s programs were also structured according to overarching quality standards, the Academic Senate of Freie Universität Berlin added to its Framework Concept for Bachelor’s and Master’s Programs (Rahmenkonzept für Bachelor- und Master-Studiengänge) in March, 2006, adopting the Framework Concept for Master’s Programs (Rahmenkonzept für Masterstudiengänge) to address the specific topics of the design and structure of programs toward the master’s degree.
The development of the master’s programs was aligned to the overall strategy of Freie Universität Berlin in establishing its profile as an “international network university.” This idea is clearly expressed in the issue of the international orientation of the master’s programs, an issue that was taken into account and fully integrated in the context of the initial conceptual considerations. The university’s considerations also included introducing specific master’s programs in particular disciplines at the graduate schools and within the interdisciplinary clusters at Freie Universität Berlin, reviewing where these programs would fit into the overall network university strategy. To ensure that the new programs would advance the university’s strategic goals, the Academic Senate adopted its Criteria for Decisions on the Introduction of Master’s Programs (Kriterien zur Entscheidung über die Einführung von Masterstudiengängen) in June, 2006. The result was the creation of a harmonized university-wide portfolio of master’s programs that accommodates both demand for specific courses and programs and the university’s strategic aim to maintain its position as a successful center of research within the competitive global higher education sector.
In the course of the reform of university teacher training programs, the university also developed master’s programs aimed at earning teaching credentials. Because these degrees are equivalent to passing the first state exam for the teaching credential, a student who has earned a master’s degree in one of these programs has the opportunity to begin his or her teacher training (Vorbereitungsdienst) right away. The Fundamental Principles for the Development of Master’s Programs toward Teaching Credentials (Grundlagen für die Entwicklung lehramtsbezogener Masterstudiengänge), which were coordinated between the universities in Berlin and the Senate Administration (Senatsverwaltung) and jointly adopted in December, 2006, aim to facilitate compliance with the requirements stipulated by law by providing binding structural and conceptual frameworks for the modularization process and fundamental criteria for decisions as to the approval of the study and exam regulations by the appropriate Senate Administrations. The fact that there is now a uniform cross-university concept of the modules needed in the master’s programs toward teaching credentials ensures that the universities in Berlin offer comparable teacher training courses and that they cooperate with each other within the aligned course structure.