Not just promoting elites – suggestions for the National Scholarship Programme
The bill relating to the creation of a National Scholarship Programme, which is subject to approval, is on the Bundesrat’s agenda for Friday, July 9. However, the leading committee for cultural affairs and the finance committee have already decided not to recommend approval. Improvements to the draft proposals could be made if the matter is sent to the Conciliation Committee for agreement.
The CHE believes that the planned national scholarship model, which would fund up to eight percent of all students with 300 euros a month from private and public funds within only a couple of years, has enormous potential. It could mobilise additional funds for students, establish an innovative scholarship culture in Germany, link HEIs more strongly to their social environment and remedy the faults of the existing scholarship system for talented students, which for example neglects the universities of applied sciences. The CHE believes that some crucial factors for success must be taken into account when implementing the new scholarship scheme if it is to fulfil these hopes. These have not yet been included in the plans. Ulrich Müller, project manager with CHE Consult, said: “The lawmakers should dramatically reduce the target quota of eight percent of funded students. Expectations that are too high now could unfairly discredit the success actually achieved.”
The CHE also recommends that the national scholarship model focuses more on the target groups that have so far been under-represented. The bill already gives higher education institutions the possibility to interpret the ”talent“ and ”performance“ criteria for support broadly within selection procedures (voluntary commitment, educationally underprivileged family background, looking after one’s own children or migrational background) but only as an optional design alternative. Ulrich Müller said: “The National Scholarship Programme looks as if it will promote just the elites. A conscious focus on a clear political and social goal that goes beyond quantitative target figures would give it a more specific direction.” The CHE believes that the aim to attract target groups that have been under-represented to date to take up studies at HEIs should form the core of the concept and that this concept should be implemented using quota regulations or more sophisticated selection and funding criteria. This incentive effect could be strengthened if a fixed quota of first-year students is determined in a bid to increase motivation to take up studies.
Without wanting to prejudice nationwide regulations, which would be desirable, the CHE, siding with the HEIs, sees here a chance to avoid selection based on socio-economic grounds and thereby win gifted prospective students from educationally underprivileged backgrounds. The design and execution of selection procedures should therefore focus on specific target groups. Müller said: “In order to avoid dissipation of the incentive effect, HEIs should assure that applications from prospective scholarship holders are possible even before they take up their studies.” It is also the HEIs’ interest to spread the scholarships sensibly across departments, i.e. to sharpen profiles but not in a one-sided fashion.
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