Urgently, Red, Green and Red want to get the reform amendment to Berlin’s higher education law through the lower house on Thursday. Tobias Schulze (left) justified this Monday at the Science Committee, because the scientific staff whose positions are currently “blocked” by universities cannot wait until the end of the summer recess.
It relates to clarifications regarding Paragraph 110, which obligates universities to offer certain permanent positions to postdocs. But the students couldn’t wait any longer – for the next extension of the Corona regulation. This should allow for postponement of examination and application dates in the current summer semester.
The opposition on the Science Committee had no objection to student relief in the first semester, which was by no means going smoothly after two years of online teaching due to the pandemic. But it is clear that the draft resolution and insistence on paragraph 110 angered the Christian Democratic Union, the Party for Freedom and Democracy and the AfD.
“You are violating the constitution and labor law,” CDU MP Adrian Grass told government factions. As reported, the CDU and the FDP consider this to be confirmed by two reports, the latest of which was the Scientific Parliamentary Service in the House of Representatives, which acted at the request of the CDU parliamentary group.
This report finds Section 110 inconsistent with constitutionally guaranteed academic freedom and the Federal Science Contracts Act (WissZeitVG). The Scientific Parliamentary Service reiterated this view again in a short report at the request of the AfD group received by the Parliamentary group on 16 June and available in Tagesspiegel.
Once again, Berlin’s legislative competence is called into question
It says very succinctly that the field of activity of universities protected in Article 5, paragraph 3 of the Basic Law also includes “the advancement of young scientists”. Therefore, doing this continuously presupposes that subsequent generations can always be repeatedly assigned to temporary jobs.
The Parliamentary Service concluded that: the obligation under the new Berlin Law on Higher Education to employ suitably qualified scientific staff for an unlimited period of time “is an infringement of academic freedom that does not appear to be constitutionally justified”.
The clarification in the Reform Amendment, under which third-party funded employees are expressly excluded, does not change that. Because the vast majority of them work from private university funds, lawyers decide.
This was confirmed by university expert Tobias Schulz from left: of the 12,245 scientific staff at Berlin universities, 5,000 are postdocs, one third of whom are externally funded employees.
However, the remaining 3,354 budget-financed postdocs subject to Section 110 represent only five to ten percent of all mid-level faculty. “You can’t say something is blocked somewhere,” Schulz said.
The concerns of the Scientific Parliamentary Service regarding the legislative competence of the state of Berlin may have more weight. This, too, has already been called into question by other expert opinions: WissZeitVG and the special time-limited law in science regulating it, which “ensures the volatility of scientific personnel”, represent “final federal regulation”.
I left hopes of a “modern” ruling from the Federal Constitutional Court
However, red, green, and red remained undeterred to these concerns, which were repeatedly voiced. On the one hand, the government coalitions point to a legal opinion from the Bundestag and another from constitutional lawyer Rosemary Weil, which reached opposing views. On the other hand, the Senate wants to wait for the upcoming new review by the Federal Constitutional Court.
The former president of Humboldt University, Sabine Kunst, started this in December 2021 as the last official act with a constitutional complaint against the Higher Education Act.
Tobias Schulze asserted that expert opinions about the constitutionally guaranteed “volatility” among young scholars have so far been based on a 1993 Federal Constitutional Court ruling. Meanwhile, there is much greater differentiation in the middle faculty and a “great need for permanent positions”.
It is now a matter of “clarifying and updating the ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court”. That’s what Red-Green-Red is counting on – and therefore sees no reason not to allow this part of the new university law to come into effect.
CDU MP Grass described hope for a revised ruling as “the last piece of grass” one clings to. But his request to return to the status quo before the September 2021 amendment to the timelines after the Ph.D. was rejected, as was the AfD’s request to make the mandatory provision of focal points optional.
According to Schulz, the clarifications given by the reform amendment should also include the fact that people appointed to “university lectures” may in the future hold the academic title of professor – if they have the appropriate qualifications, such as qualification.
In addition, the right to award doctorates to universities of applied sciences must now also apply to church universities in Berlin.