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Quality Education is the Capital of the Future: TU9 proposals for improving the two-tier degree system

Ten years after the launch of the Bologna Process, its implementation has revealed some undesirable developments. The technically-oriented TU9 member universities have always seen this process as a chance to improve the quality of their degree courses within the framework of the European Higher Education Area.

They are greatly interested in optimising the Bologna Process. The TU9 universities thus appeal to all political actors to fulfil their responsibility and, together with the universities, remove the faults in the system as soon as possible. The many declarations of intent over the last few months must now be followed by action.


For German universities, the Bologna Process requires changing the university system on an historic scale. The technically-oriented TU9 member universities have always seen this process as a chance to improve the quality of their degree courses within the framework of the European Higher Education Area. They are greatly interested in optimising, enhancing, and bringing higher flexibility to the Bologna Process. It is of fundamental importance to TU9 to assure and improve the quality of education especially in engineering and science, to strengthen graduates' ability to compete on the international labour market, and to reduce the duration of studies. The TU9 Universities have in the meantime changed over to the two-tier degree system for almost all courses. This was done during normal operations and without additional funding.

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Ten years after the launch of the Bologna Process, its implementation has revealed some undesirable developments, the negative effects of which also led to the recent student protests. The fact that universities in Germany have been underfunded for decades has become all the more apparent through the Bologna Process. It is essential that this state of affairs be improved, in particular to maintain and enhance the quality of teaching.

We thus appeal to all political actors to fulfil their responsibility and, together with the universities, remove the faults in the system as soon as possible. The many declarations of intent over the last few months must now be followed by action.

Autonomy of the universities must be maintained.

Below is a summary of the points and demands for the "reform of the reform", which were developed by a specially convened TU9 committee of vice presidents / pro-rectors for teaching and studies. The details are as follows:

1. The master's degree is the regular degree in engineering / science at technical universities

The TU9 universities declared at an early stage that the master's degree in engineering and science is the aim of students at TU9 universities. They reiterate that the workload leading to a consecutive master's degree comprises at least 300 ECTS points. TU9 also calls for the five-year limit on the prescribed length of studies to be lifted.

In the interests of flexibility, the TU9 universities expressly welcome the Education Ministers' Conference (KMK) resolution of 10.12.2009 to distinguish only between consecutive and continuing education programmes.

2. Flexibility and quality are the essential criteria for an effective transition from the bachelor's to the master's degree

In accordance with the KMK resolutions of 10.12.2009, TU9 calls for more flexible entrance requirements for the master's degree programmes. As a rule, a bachelor's degree is required for admission to a master's degree programme. The universities decide independently on possible further regulations, and in addition also on provisional admissions and opportunities to take modules in advance during the corresponding bachelor's phase.

3. Increasing mobility by recognition of academic achievements and degrees, joint degrees and double degrees

Students' national and international mobility should be promoted systematically. The TU9 universities are committed to dealing flexibly with the recognition of academic achievements and degrees on the basis of the skills that have been acquired. For this, students are recommended to sign a "learning agreement" with the representatives of the subject. The TU9 members will provide for more mobility windows during degree programmes and increase the number of joint and double degrees within strong networks and additional national and international partnerships.

4. Social protection of students through the financial assistance programme (BAföG) up to the master's degree

Financial assistance of students through BAföG must continue through to the master's degree. BAföG must be made more flexible, the upper time limit extended and a seamless transfer of support between the bachelor's and master's phases assured. The transition from the bachelor's to the master's phase with an associated change of subject area does not count as a change of subject area or degree programme in the sense of the BAföG regulations.

5. Adapting curricula, decreasing density of examinations, promoting flexible, research-oriented learning

The changeover to the two-tier system has led in part to school-based and overloaded curricula as well as to a higher density of examinations; demands from outside, particularly from the accreditation agencies, have also played their part in this development.
In order to improve study conditions and the feasibility of completing a course, it is necessary to make the rigid requirement of 30 ECTS points per semester more flexible. Universities should, for example, be permitted to award fewer credit points and to require fewer examinations to assist students at the beginning of their studies.
Existing undesirable developments will be corrected by the TU9 members. TU9 is in favour of the transfer of responsibility for determining the curricular standard value to the universities.

With student involvement in the relevant committees, the universities will thus have the freedom and flexibility to create their own curricula, taking the nature of individual subjects into account.

6. Further development of international standards of accreditation

The system of accreditation must be reformed and developed further. In line with the German Science Council, the TU9 universities see quality management in teaching as a core element in their autonomy. Quality assurance is primarily the duty of the universities and in their best interests .

7. Securing the next STEM generation

The TU9 universities are campaigning for elective preparatory modules in STEM subjects directed at applicants interested in studying science and engineering; these are optional and can be taken prior to or parallel to a degree course. Such courses are an effective tool for easing the transition between school and university, and serve to improve the initial phase of degree courses as well as to significantly increase the success quotas.

8. In favour of diversity in awarding specific degrees: keeping the title "Diplom-Ingenieur"

The academic title "Dipl.-Ing." is a trademark of German engineering training. TU9 is campaigning to secure this academic title as a mark of a five-year degree course in engineering which qualifies graduates for careers in both research and industry. TU9 does not stand alone in this: the 16 state chambers of engineers, united in the Federal Chamber of Engineers, passed a resolution in Saarbrücken on 30.10.2009 in favour of the "Diplom-Ingenieur" as a degree, together with the demand to retain the established and widely accepted title "Diplom" in Germany, as is the case in Austria and France.

The TU9 universities appeal to the politicians responsible to allow German universities to decide freely on the titles of their degrees at the end of the second cycle. For engineering degrees, TU9 calls for the retention of the title "Diplom-Ingenieur" with the equivalent title of "Master of Science". In the eyes of TU9, the regulation of academic degrees is an element of art.5 para.3 German Constituion (Grundgesetz, freedom of research and teaching).

9. Diversity and transferability between universities and universities of applied science

Outstanding graduates of universities of applied science must have the option of studying for a doctorate. TU9 is in favour of diversity, transparency and transferability between the systems "university of applied science" and "university" in the different study phases. The right to award doctorates must remain exclusively with the universities. TU9, however, explicitly supports the development of cooperative doctorates between universities and universities of applied science.

10. Supporting the successful "Dr.-Ing." model

Structured approaches to doctoral training are increasing, for example within the framework of the Excellence Initiative. Allowing for individual subject cultures, a variety of paths to doctoral degrees must continue to exist. The "Dr.-Ing." is a mark of quality, which assures young scientists from German universities an outstanding position in international competition. It represents the first independent work of a scientist. TU9 wishes to keep this as a sign of quality and speaks out firmly against compulsory doctoral training programmes, however much the format of graduate schools is to be supported in appropriate circumstances.

About TU9

TU9 is the network of the leading institutes of technology in Germany:
RWTH Aachen, TU Berlin, TU Braunschweig, TU Darmstadt, TU Dresden, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, TU München, and Universität Stuttgart.

197,000 students, or roughly 10 per cent of all German students, are registered at TU9 universities.

In Germany, 47 per cent of all university graduates in engineering come from TU9 universities. Some 57 per cent of doctorates in engineering are awarded at TU9 universities.

Venio Piero Quinque | idw
Further information:

Further reports about: BAföG Bologna-Prozess ECTS Education KMK Stem

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