Reinhard Flogaus, a member of the Academic Senate of the Humboldt University in Berlin, spoke out in the dispute over the new Berlin law on higher education. Flogaus is one of the two spokespersons of the mid-level academic department in HU and the subject representative for Church and Denominational Studies / Eastern Catholicism at the Faculty of Theology there.
At the end of April, the Berlin Senate presented a draft “Act on updating the Berlin Act on Higher Education”, which is to be adopted in the House of Representatives in June.
The intentionally meaningless wording of the law has a highly explosive content, as it is mainly about the new regulation of § 110 of the Berlin Higher Education Act of September 2021, which has been heavily criticized by the management of the Berlin university and some professors.
Accordingly, temporary trainees in household positions are to receive a further commitment to permanent employment that is linked to the achievement of the qualification goals.
However, this new regulation could not be implemented even eight months after the law came into force – due to massive resistance from the management of the Berlin university. Sabine Kunst, rector of Humboldt University, summarized the new § 110 as a “bungler” that would “endanger Berlin as a place of study” and therefore resigned at the end of the year.
Dangerous blockage of university lines
Shortly before leaving office, on her 67th birthday, Kunst also filed a constitutional complaint against the Berlin Higher Education Act with the Federal Constitutional Court on behalf of Humboldt University. It happened without consultation with academic bodies and without an appropriate decision of the Executive Committee.
On April 1, 2022, HU Vice-President for Budget, Human Resources and Technology, Ludwig Kronthaler, announced his resignation at the end of the summer semester for the same reasons and stated that the new Berlin Higher Education Act as a whole was “harmful”. for science “and an expression of a Berlin” ideology “in which” the purpose of work and social policy takes precedence “, which threatens” scientific excellence and the future viability of the science system “.
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However, it is not the amendment to the Berlin Higher Education Act that threatens Berlin as a place of study, but the blockade with which the Berlin university management reacted to the new version of § 110. Water engineer Sabine Kunst sees the university as a kind of “continuous flow heater” for young scientists, as it specified in June 2021 at a hearing in the Scientific Committee.
You and others see the creation of more permanent positions in the mid-level department, which the Berlin Senate is striving for, as a blockade in a system geared towards permanent fluctuation.
As a result of the current blockade, almost no doctors were employed in budget-funded positions at Berlin universities since October 2021. This was initially justified by the unforeseeable financial risk to universities of such follow-up commitments for PhDs.
There has been a stoppage in filling vacancies for eight months
It is now said that the Berlin Senate administration has so far refused in the structural plan the necessary conversion of the temporary post into a permanent post prior to the announcement of the postdoctoral position.
As a result, this has meant a standstill at Berlin universities for doctors for eight months and the migration of young scientists with doctorates to other federal states.
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In this confusing situation, the Berlin Senate submitted a draft in which the provisions of paragraph 110, passed in September last year, are to be revised again. On the one hand, it was made clear that the follow-up commitments should not apply to third party funded workers or federal and state interim programs.
On the other hand, there is a transitional period until October 1, 2023 for the first application of the Doctors’ Follow-up Obligation Regulation. The bill stipulates that the new permanent employment regulation should only apply to “first employees” after October 1, 2023. This would exclude all those employees who, after completing their PhD, were initially employed on third party funded or excellence projects or for another university.
It would be absurd to discriminate against scientists who already have some work experience. For this reason, the word “pre-recruitment” must be replaced by the word “recruiting” in this bill.
Another, even more serious problem of the bill submitted by the Senate is the omission of the legal definition of a separate professional category for academic staff who are to receive an employment contract for an indefinite period. The Senate draft supplements the wording of the Act of September 2021 in such a way that the confirmation of the permanent position should “adequately” take into account the qualifying objective agreed in the employment contract.
But it’s still so vague that it could mean anything from a senior position to a professorship. According to the vice president of HU Kronthaler, the senate administration even explicitly defined the latter as a suitable professional category for permanent employment in the event of a successful habilitation in an interview with representatives of Berlin universities in November 2021.
The most unattractive job offers?
Such an interpretation would be inconsistent with the house-keeping prohibition and other administrative regulations. This could be used by university management as an opportunity to continue to refrain from hiring new PhDs to gain an employability qualification.
Other universities have also heard that they would like to offer the least attractive employment conditions for a later permanent position, for example only part-time or positions with a high teaching load.
By failing to define a separate category of target positions, the draft law is unclear – and thus again at the expense of the trainees. Ulrike Gote should therefore reconsider the current project
In line with the original intentions of Berlin’s coalition parties, the law must introduce a new staffing category for middle-level personnel to independently carry out research and teaching tasks. As for example in Bremen, this can be called “lecturer” or “university lecturer”.
Updating the Berlin Higher Education Act without such a new category of workers would merely update old problems. In this case, the current stagnation in the further training of doctoral staff in Berlin would not change.
To prevent further damage to higher education policy, the state legislature should update the draft “update of the Berlin Higher Education Act” submitted by the Berlin Senate and add this important point.