World-class Excellence requires Clear Political Commitment
Berlin University Alliance demands Visible Positioning in the Current Coalition Negotiations on Top-level University Research
News from Nov 01, 2021
The Berlin Excellence Alliance "Berlin University Alliance" (BUA) expects Berlin's politicians to assign a clear priority to the necessary resources and course-setting for excellent research in the current coalition negotiations for a new state government.
"It has been proven that science, along with culture, is the decisive engine for the development of the German capital," says spokesperson of the Berlin University Alliance and president of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dr. Sabine Kunst. "In 2019 alone, start-ups that emerged from Berlin universities created 62,600 jobs in Berlin and generated a turnover of 8.4 billion euro. The universities and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin are among the city's largest employers. We expect Berlin politicians to give this role corresponding priority in their political objectives. Education and science need the greatest possible financial and legal freedom so that the ideas of young people and junior researchers can flourish, and Berlin can continue to be creative and innovative."
The good framework conditions for scientific policy in the outgoing legislative period have enabled the BUA to develop Berlin gradually and with continuing success into a leading role as a science and healthcare metropolis.
Demands of the Berlin University Alliance on the Berlin Senate
The BUA spokesperson emphasized that these good conditions must be secured and further developed to be able to hold one's own in international and national competition – not least in the national competition of the Excellence Strategy.
How can politics provide concrete support to further develop the excellence of the Berlin hub of research? The BUA lists the most important points:
- To survive in national and international competition, the Berlin University Alliance and its members need a long-term financial perspective to make the infrastructural conditions sustainable. This applies particularly to setting up universities in Berlin. Back in January 2018, an expert report published on behalf of Berlin's universities revealed a renovation backlog of 3.2 billion euro. This is because excellent research and teaching need sufficient space and infrastructure: for meetings, exchange, equipment, laboratories, experiments, and ideas.
- Legal frameworks for science and research must not be restrictive but must allow institutions autonomy and fundamentally pursue the goal of promoting and enabling innovation and ideas.
- Resolutions in the new Berlin Higher Education Act must be adequately financed and legally enforceable. This relates primarily to the effects of Section 110, which stipulates the unlimited timeframe for junior researchers. As a result of this regulation, the Berlin University Alliance faces huge challenges in implementing its funding program and further developing it to enhance top-level research.
- The success of Berlin's research already needs both political and financial support for the next round of the Excellence Strategy starting in 2026. This is not only about supporting the Berlin University Alliance of itself, but also about providing support for large and strong research alliances, especially the Clusters of Excellence. Here, the existing clusters must be accompanied on their way to the next phase in a dialog between politics and the universities of excellence, and at the same time the development of new clusters in the central future fields of research in Berlin must be promoted in a concerted manner.
In this way, not only Berlin research, but also Berlin scientific policy can continue to become a genuine international flagship and a model for other metropolitan regions. New career paths can be identified and shaped, jobs secured, and knowledge created for society and the economy. That should be the common goal.
Science can Support Politics and has Proposals for Solutions Ready
Expectations for the Berlin University Alliance are high. Both from the members of the partner institutions and from politics, society, sponsors, and especially from the international research community. The BUA partner institutions want to meet these expectations. Scientific policymakers and science managers in Germany and Europe are observing how the BUA project is developing and whether the innovative approaches to a new form of research are transferable in the 21st century. The focus of interest is not only on funding mechanisms, but, above all, on the development of Berlin as a university and research hub.
The challenges for the upcoming Berlin state government are daunting. Many policy areas are at stake: Digitalization, modernization of administration, health, schools, transport, housing, climate and environmental protection. Scientists can and want to provide support for all these topics and have proposals for solutions at their fingertips.
The Berlin University Alliance has set out to establish even stronger ties between society and science, and to discuss and master current and future challenges together. But science can only do this with clear support from and as an advisor to policymakers. The Berlin University Alliance is on standby for this.
With the successful funding decisions for the Excellence Strategy in 2019, Berlin once again demonstrated the advanced international level of its research institutions. Internationally and in the current funding atlas of the German Research Foundation, the Berlin universities and Charité have an excellent ranking in a tough competitive environment. Seven Clusters of Excellence and the funding of the Berlin University Alliance as an Excellence Alliance at the institutional level testify to the success, which is the merit of the employees as well as the scientists of the Berlin universities and Charité. This success must not be jeopardized.
The Berlin University Alliance
The Berlin University Alliance is a consortium consisting of three major Berlin universities – Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin – and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, established to shape research and education in Berlin. The four partners joined forces to further develop Berlin as a research hub with international drawing power. Together the partners explore major societal challenges, increase public outreach, promote the training of junior researchers, address issues of quality and standards in research, and share resources in the areas of research infrastructure, teaching, diversity, equal opportunities, and internationalization. The Berlin University Alliance is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the state of Berlin under the Excellence Strategy of the Federal Government and the Länder.
Joint press release from Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin along with Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
Hans-Christoph Keller, acting press spokesperson for the Berlin University Alliance and press spokesperson for Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin