BERLIN—Financing for German science got a boost yesterday when politicians agreed on how to spend €9 billion slated for education over the next 4 years. Disagreements between the federal and state governments had delayed plans for distributing the money, promised in November, between preschools, schools, and universities.
At a meeting on Monday evening, Angela Merkel and leaders of her party’s coalition partners agreed that the federal government will take over the full cost of the country’s financial aid program for university students—which will amount to a €1.2 billion savings for state budgets each year. The states have promised to spend those savings on schools and universities.
In addition, the states agreed to a change in the constitution that would allow the federal government to fund universities directly, which is currently forbidden. Science leaders have lobbied for the change for years, but the states have been reluctant to give up any of their control over education to the federal government.
The final wording of the constitutional amendment still has to be worked out, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said today at a press conference in Berlin, where he presented the agreement with research minister Johanna Wanka and state leaders. But scientists say the agreement is very good news. “It’s a coup for both the universities and research institutes,” said Jürgen Mlynek, president of the Helmholtz Association, which manages Germany’s biggest research centers, in a statement today (link in German). “The agreement is also a major personal success for Minister Wanka.” Wanka has been criticized in recent weeks for her failure to break the impasse between federal and state leaders.
The agreement spells out that the federal government will also continue its funding of several key programs that have boosted research budgets in recent years, such as the Joint Initiative for Research and Innovation—which funds nonuniversity research organizations like the Helmholtz Association and the Max Planck Society—and the Excellence Initiative, which allows universities to compete for extra funding for special projects and the title of “elite university.”