GHDI logo

An Education Researcher on the Reform Process at East German Universities (1999)

In a detailed examination of two case studies, the University of Leipzig and Humboldt University in Berlin, East German education researcher Peer Pasternack describes the problems surrounding the reform process at East German universities after the transition [Wende].

print version     return to document list previous document      next document

page 1 of 4

[ . . . ]

4. Conclusion

At the beginning of this study, we identified an implementation conflict concerning the definition of the goals and modalities of reorganizing East German institutions of higher education. And at the end of this study, we identified an interpretation conflict concerning the evaluation of the process and the assessment of its results. The opposing interpretations of the process and its results can be summed up by the difference between two essential interpretive axes: on the one hand, the process was trumpeted as a “success story” (Jürgen Rüttgers); on the other, it was also labeled as an “academic disaster” (Edelbert Richter). Tied to this was our question of whether the interpretation conflict derived solely from the results of the process or whether it had already existed in the aforementioned implementation conflict.

Apart from evaluating the tangible results of the reorganization process – that is, the question of whether and to what extent it represented a renewal – the opinions of actors and observers diverged and still diverge significantly, especially regarding the political configuration of the reorganization process.

First of all, Habermas referred to the transformation of the East German system as having been initiated “from above.” This also applied to the reorganization of the universities. The “hour of the executive,” which aptly describes the transformation “from above,” was also recognizable in the institutions of higher education in three stages.

[ . . . ]

Academic freedom is “the freedom of the academic individual to pursue truth in research and teaching, wherever that may lead, without having to fear sanctions or job loss as the result of the violation of political, religious, or social conventions” (Goedegebuure et al. 1993, p. 17f.). This was not assured [during the transformation], since all personnel appointments were renegotiated, and, in preparation for that, integrity reviews, among other things, were conducted.

Substantive autonomy is “the ability of the institution of higher education as a whole to determine its own goals and programs (the ‘what’ of research and teaching)”; and procedural autonomy is “the ability of the institution of higher education to determine its own means of implementing its goals and programs (the ‘how’ of research and teaching)” (Ibid, p. 18). These forms of autonomy were significantly restricted: partly through the various evaluation processes and the subsequent decisions on university structures, and partly through the ongoing transitional character of the situation that resulted. In the evaluation processes, considerations about the compatibility of the East German higher education system with the West German higher education system played a decisive role. When it came to making structural decisions, state executives took the lead; at the same time, they were clearly hindered by the limited budget funds. Procedural autonomy was ultimately so curtailed that a number of genuine tasks of [university] self-administration were carried out – not only by the ministries – but also by other substitute structures, such as state [Land] commissions of higher education, externally appointed founding deans and commissions, and the like (compare Teichler 1994; Mayntz 1994b).

[ . . . ]

first page < previous   |   next > last page