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Senate Publishes Position Statement

on Baden-Württemberg's 2015–2020 "Perspektive 2020" Higher Education Funding Agreement

Freiburg, Jun 11, 2019

Senate Publishes Position Statement

Photo: Sandra Meyndt

Position Statement of the University of Freiburg's Senate on Baden-Württemberg's 2015-2020 "Perspektive 2020" Higher Education Funding Agreement

Universities are the engines that power knowledge-based societies. As a result, they take on major significance – not just for education, research, and science, but for society as a whole. Universities require adequate financing and financial planning security in order to properly fulfill this role. High-quality teaching and outstanding performance in research need investment and a very favorable framework in the long term.

Against this backdrop, Baden-Württemberg's 2015-2020 "Perspektive 2020" Higher Education Funding Agreement has made important improvements that we would like to recognize explicitly. Nevertheless, longstanding, ongoing, structural problems remain unresolved. The Senate of the University of Freiburg invites the state to finally follow its words about the significance of Baden-Württemberg as a location for research and scholarship with deeds that will gradually reduce the prolonged, structural funding deficit.

In view of the upcoming negotiations for a follow-up accord for the current Higher Education Funding Agreement, the University of Freiburg's Senate would like to take the following position:

  • By increasing basic financing by an annual average of three percent, the Higher Education Funding Agreement "Perspektive 2020" has improved financial planning security for universities. Yet the transfer of special funds into basic financing has not allowed additional resources to actually flow to the University of Freiburg because planning security is for the most part achieved by the conversion of program funds into basic financing. Energy cost compensation of 8,156,500 euros (2015 amount with annual adjustment of three percent) is the only basic financing increase for the University of Freiburg that can be used to balance out the existing deficit. This planning security improves the situation especially in the areas of study and teaching, yet it has a minimal impact on research.

  • Teaching and research do not develop according to the schedule of fiscal years. Universities operate in a very dynamic environment which is shaped by projects. In order to work successfully, they must rely on autonomy and flexibility in using their resources (in both temporal and objective respects) and the reserves they have accrued. The state must protect universities' financial reserves. Practicing sustainable spending should not become a drawback for the universities.

  • Rising operating expenses for university buildings are putting increasing pressure on the University of Freiburg's budget. Unlike other state institutions, the university must pay for leasing and outsourcing from its own budget. Urgently needed renovation of buildings only makes the situation more pressing. These financial burdens significantly limit the budget funds available to the University of Freiburg for its main missions (teaching, research, innovation). Even if the current Higher Education Funding Agreement provides the urgently needed compensation for increased energy costs, none of the other operating costs are addressed. Except for an adjustment made to establish the Faculty of Engineering in 2002, the state has only made available funds for facility management in accordance with a budget estimate that has remained unchanged since 1997. Facility management is significantly underfinanced because a major, forty percent growth in campus surface area since 2002; the rise in the number of rented facilities; outlays for operating technology of continually increasing complexity; a tightening of legal regulations; and inflation have not been considered. The university is urgently dependent on funding to balance its facility management costs.

  • The same applies for many obligations that have arisen from new, legal regulations. These are:  Data protection, information security, and the Personnel Representative Law. They are only a few examples that increase university outlays. What is more, they have made bureaucratic processes more complex so that additional staff is required to handle them. This expense nevertheless remains unmet through additional allocation of funds. The University of Freiburg must fund them at the expense of its main missions.

  • Through into the year 2020, the Higher Education Funding Agreement "Perspektive 2020" limits resources for the number of places for incoming students to a level set for the 2013/14 academic year. As a result, the resources available in the area of teaching are by no means suitable to meet actual demands. The faculty-student ratio and the burdens placed on faculty are inhibiting quality development.

The outlined circumstances of the past years show that basic financing is insufficient. The decisions taken at the upcoming negotiations on the framework for higher educational funding in the state will set the course for the future sustainability of higher education in Baden-Württemberg and therefore at the University of Freiburg as well. For years, disproportionate increases in levels of third-party funding and top placement in the rankings have proven the international competitiveness of research and teaching at the University of Freiburg. A significant foundation for that is sufficient, basic financing from the state. That sound judgment and openness to the need to act guarantee these vital framework conditions is essential to the future sustainability of Baden-Württemberg. The University of Freiburg is appealing to the responsible office-holders and elected officials to recognize and address these needs in future financial provisions and rise to cover the undeniable funding requirements in the area of scholarship in the upcoming follow-up accord. The University of Freiburg will faithfully and constructively take part in the negotiations.