Reinhard Flugoss, an academic senator at the Humboldt University of Berlin, has spoken out in the controversy over Berlin’s new law on higher education. Phlogos is a spokesperson for the mid-level academic faculty at Heliopolis University and subject representative for Church and Denomination/Eastern Church Studies at the Theological Faculty there.
At the end of April, the Berlin Senate submitted a draft “Law to Modernize the Berlin Law on Higher Education”, which is expected to pass in the lower house in June.
The meaningless wording of the law hides a highly explosive content, as it relates mainly to the new regulation of Article 110 of the Berlin Higher Education Act of September 2021, which has been heavily criticized by the management of the University of Berlin and some professors.
Accordingly, temporary postdocs in home positions must receive a follow-up commitment to permanent employment linked to achievement of qualification goals.
However, this new law could not be implemented even eight months after the law came into force – due to the massive resistance of the University of Berlin administration. Sabine Kunst, President of Humboldt University, succinctly declared the new Article 110 an “impurity” that would “endanger Berlin as a place of science” and she resigned for this reason at the end of the year.
The university lines are seriously clogged
Just before she left 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. This happened without consulting the academic bodies and without a corresponding decision of the Executive Committee.
On 1 April 2022, Heliopolis University Vice President for Budget, Human Resources and Technology, Ludwig Krontaler, announced his resignation at the end of the summer semester for the same reasons and declared that the new Berlin Law on Higher Education as a whole was “harmful” to science” and expressing the “ideology” of Berlin in which it is” Labor and social policy objectives take precedence,” which could jeopardize “the scientific excellence and future capacity of the scientific system.”
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However, it is not the amendment of the Berlin Higher Education Law that puts Berlin at risk as a location for science, but the blockade with which the management of the University of Berlin responded to the new version of paragraph 110. Water management engineer Sabine Kunst sees the university as a kind of “continuous flow heater” for scientists Young people, as I described it in June 2021 at a science committee hearing.
You and the others regard the creation of more permanent positions in the middle-level faculty, which the Berlin Senate is aiming for, as a blockage in a system geared toward permanent fluctuations.
As a result of the current blockade, postdoctoral researchers have almost not been appointed to budget-funded positions at Berlin universities since October 2021. This was initially justified by the unanticipated financial risks of the universities associated with these follow-up obligations to the postdoc.
There has been a deadlock in filling vacancies for eight months
It is now said that the administration of the Berlin Senate has so far refused to implement the necessary conversion from a temporary to a permanent position in the Structural Plan before the post-doctoral position is announced.
As a result, this has meant a hiatus from Berlin’s postdocs for eight months now, and the migration of young scholars with PhDs to other federal states.
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In this muddled situation, the Berlin Senate has now introduced a bill according to which the legal provisions of Article 110, passed in September of last year, will again be amended. On the one hand, it was made clear that follow-up obligations should not apply to employees who are funded by third-party funds or federal and temporary state programs.
On the other hand, a transitional period until October 1, 2023 has been set for the first-time application of the Follow-Up Obligation Regulations to postdocs. The bill states that the new permanent tenure system should apply only to “first-time appointments” after October 1, 2023. This would exclude all employees who, after completing their Ph.D., were initially employed in a third-party funded or privileged project or at another university.
Such discrimination against scientists who already have a certain amount of professional experience would be completely absurd. For this reason, the word “initial enlistment” should be replaced by the word “conscription” in the current bill.
Another, more serious problem with the Senate bill is the deletion of a statutory definition of a separate job category for scientific personnel who will be awarded permanent contracts. The Senate draft complements the wording of the September 2021 law in such a way that confirmation of permanent employment must “appropriately” take into account the qualification objective agreed upon in the employment contract.
But this is still so mysterious that it could mean anything from a senior position to a professor. According to the Vice-Chancellor of Heliopolis University, Kärthaler, the Senate administration explicitly described the latter as the appropriate job category for permanent employment in the event of successful qualification in a conversation with representatives of Berlin universities in November 2021.
Most unattractive jobs offered?
Such an interpretation would be inconsistent with the ban on home appointments and other administrative regulations. The university administration can use it as an opportunity to continue to refrain from hiring new postdocs with the qualification goal of employability.
He has also heard from other universities that they wish to offer as few attractive working conditions as possible for subsequent permanent employment, eg only part-time jobs or positions with a higher teaching load.
By not defining a separate category for the target job, the bill is unclear – and thus again at the expense of postdocs. So Ulrike Gote should reconsider the current draft
As originally planned by the Berlin Alliance parties, a new class of middle-level officials to independently carry out research and teaching tasks should be included in the law. As in Bremen, for example, this can be called a “lecturer” or “university lecturer”.
An update of the Berlin Law on Higher Education without this new class of personnel will only update old problems. In this case, the current deadlock in the further qualification of doctoral staff in Berlin will not change.
In order to avoid further damage to higher education policy, the state legislature should update the draft “Berlin Higher Education Law Update” submitted by the Berlin Senate and add this important point.