The global economic and financial crisis is dominating the headlines. Tackling it is difficult because of the following two aspects:
In modern economies, almost everything hangs together; the effects in one particular area reverberate widely in national economies.
On the one hand, as a result of these complex correlations, the result and duration of the crisis are uncertain and lead, on the other hand, to a situation in which the effects of certain measures that are being taken to tackle the crisis can barely be calculated.
This also applies to the higher education sector: Higher education institutions (HEIs) will undoubtedly be affected, and in various ways, but it not possible to say which precise ways at the moment. Experience gained from other crises give an idea of how the symptoms of periods of economic weakness could affect the higher education sector:
In the consumer sector, the positive effects of economic stimulus packages were cancelled out, over time, by the consolidation of over-indebted households and savings measures.
Third-party funding of HEIs has dropped as a result of the slower growth in earnings of private funding bodies.
In the past, a reduced number of trainee positions and jobs available led to an increased number of applications to HEIs and to an extended study duration. There was a high demand for study programmes promising an allegedly safe job (such as teachers or jobs in public administration).
However, economic crises have also proven to be a chance for the higher education sector to improve their political, economic and social significance as an important source of innovation for new growth. This often requires innovation in the content of study programmes and research projects.
What is the right thing to do in this situation? It is by no means the time for moaning, painting a bleak picture or standing idly on the sidelines. Instead, we need to try and develop realistic scenarios for the consequences of the crisis in the higher education sector and to come up with measures, even now, for higher education institutions and policy. Convincing answers are still missing, but we have asked a number of national and international experts from the higher education sector to give their views on current developments and to forecast the possible consequences. We want to use these ideas to stimulate the discussion about suitable concepts and measures for dealing with the crisis.
We would like to invite you to comment on the experts’ views. If you would additionally like to make a statement about the issue, please send your contribution via e-mail to Zur-Sache@che.de. We reserve the right to shorten or publish the articles sent to us.