After the war, science was seen as a means to move on and develop, in both East and West Germany. Additionally, there was fierce competition between both states, which also played out in the realm of science and technology. This actually resulted in driving progress on both sides.
The 1960s in particular brought a huge transformation within the West German education system. Access to higher education was opened up to more disadvantaged social strata, and many new universities were established, including the universities of Konstanz, Bochum and Bremen.
Following the political transformation in East Germany, a number of professors and employees had to leave their jobs due to their cooperation with the East German system. The research institutes often became part of the overarching research organisations. Of the institutes of further education, the Humboldt University of Berlin and the Technical University of Dresden were honoured as universities of excellence.
What role does science play in Germany today?
Science is an important topic within German society, politics and the economy. According to the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, in 2016 around 2.9 percent of GDP was spent on research and development. In comparison, according to the OECD, the USA spent 2.7 percent of its GDP on research and development, the UK 1.7 percent, and Switzerland 3.4 percent. The overall average among the OECD states is 2.3 percent.
Since 2005, top universities have been receiving special financial support from the state in connection with the Excellence Strategy (formerly: Excellence Initiative). As part of the Pact for Research and Innovation, the public financial support for the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) and the four major research organisations is fixed. The High-Tech Strategy is a political instrument to transform research findings into applied science and economic applications.
Universities and research institutions are important employers in Germany. More than 700,000 people – professors, scientific staff and non-academic staff – are employed at the universities alone, without considering other public and private institutions of research.
Young scientists are particularly encouraged in Germany. The number of doctoral students and scientific staff in qualifying jobs is steadily rising. Many of them are employed in projects funded by third parties.
Students and researchers from abroad are highly welcome, and they are able to utilise excellent support structures like the German Academic Exchange Service, in order to prepare and organise their stay in Germany.
Which scientific fields are important in Germany?
The range of scientific fields is huge: fundamental research plays an important role in all sciences in Germany. On the other hand, engineering, the chemical industry and high technology are key branches of the German economy. For this reason, there is a high commitment to applied sciences. According to the public German Research Foundation (DFG), the engineering sciences receive the most public financial support by far, followed by life sciences such as medicine and biology. At third place, the humanities in Germany have an important standing because of their long tradition, especially among the well-educated public.
In any case, most students take courses in law, economics and social sciences, followed by courses in engineering sciences.
How is scientific education organized in Germany?
Scientific education is available at public or private universities and at universities of applied sciences (known as ‘Fachhochschulen’). In addition, there are colleges of art, film and music. In accordance with the European Bologna Process, most study subjects conclude with a bachelor’s or a master’s degree. Doctoral degrees can be achieved at universities, but not typically from universities of applied sciences. Since lifelong learning has become an increasingly important issue, many universities have established professional education and special master’s programmes.
Where does scientific research take place in Germany?
Scientific research is conducted at regular universities in particular as well as in a complex network of public research institutions, for example the Max Planck Institutes. There are also private research institutes and, of course, research and development departments in business enterprises.