Begabtenförderungswerke

Foundations for providing scholarship money to “gifted” students.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine said in addition to the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes [Studies Foundation of the German People], there are 12 smaller foundations in Germany that also provide scholarships to “gifted” students. The twelve are anchored in core society groups such as the political parties, religions, labor unions and employers. The smaller foundations receive some or all of this scholarship money from the federal Education Ministry and pass it on to the students they select, after taking 14% for administrative costs.

1% of German university students receive money from these groups, nearly 26,000 students in 2013.

In the past, the gifted scholarships consisted of a need-based monthly allowance, calculated using Bafög data, plus a monthly supplement called “books money” [Büchergeld] that has now been renamed [Studienkostenpauschale, “study expenses grant”] after it was announced in February that it would be increased to 300 euros/month effective September 2014.

A similar merit-based scholarship of 300 euros/month—150 from the Education Ministry, 150 from a sponsor— that was seen as competition to the books money is called the Deutschlandstipendium, Germany Scholarship, available to any German university and to qualifying students from any nationality.

(Beh GOB ten fir-r-r dare oongs verk ah.)

Bafög

Bafög is need-based assistance given to German high school and university students until they complete their first degree. The need-based calculation contains a bewildering variety of factors that include the parents’ income and the student’s expenses. High school students don’t have to pay it back, and university students have to pay half back, without interest. The word comes from the abbreviation for the law that established the scholarship, the Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz [German education/training assistance act].

Update on 27 May 2014: After weeks of discussion about spending more on education, the federal government has announced it will start paying 100% of Bafög, rather than the current 65% federal money, 35% state money. The states will have to invest the 35%, ~1.17 billion euros each year, in schools and universities, though Wolfgang Schäuble said there are no control mechanisms in place to enforce this. Bafög is to be reformed again in 2016/17.

Update on 21 Jul 2014: The federal government announced they will be increasing Bafög by 7%, the Elternfreibetrag [?] by 7% —which will increase the number of students qualifying to receive Bafög by >110,000 university and school students—and the rent stipend to 250 euros/month. The increases will go into effect in the winter semester 2016/2017. The last time Bafög was increased was in 2010.

(BAFFIG.)

Schlagende Verbindung

The German university fraternities that deliberately cut each other in the face while swordfighting, as a result of which any company manager with a facial scar is thought to have a powerful right-wing network supporting him. This is still going on.

Not all Burschenschaft fraternities are schlagende Verbindungen.

Hamburg’s state Verfassungsschutz has announced they will be keeping a closer eye on the “Germania” Burschenschaft because some of its members might be right-wing extremists.

In 2013, said the officials, HB Germania’s political activity increased and included:

Multiple invitations to right-wing extremists, including a public relations expert and neonazi politician, Jürgen Schwab, who was to give a talk on “Manipulation of International Law.”

Close ties to a Hamburg fraternity of right-wing extremist high school students [Schülerverbindung]. I did not know there were Verbindungen-type fraternities for schoolchildren.

Update on 11 Jun 2014: The foundation in charge of the Wartburg castle in Eisenach said the Deutsche Burschenschaft will no longer be allowed to hold their annual meeting at the castle. Spiegel said this group is an umbrella association of right-wing student Verbindungen, who’ve caused talk lately by wondering aloud if they should require proof of Aryan ancestry for membership!

Update on 13 Jun 2014: In addition to Hamburg’s “Germania” fraternity, Verfassungsschutz is also looking at Munich’s “Danubia.” And two N.P.D. members of Saxony’s state parliament have said they were members of Gießen’s “Dresdensia-Rugia.”

The president of Saxony’s state Verfassungsschutz is a Burschenschaftler. He indicated that in college he joined a fraternity that his family member(s) had joined, that he has been active as one of their Alte Herren (“old gentlemen,” the alumni), and he didn’t mention it before because he thought this was a private matter.

(SHLAWG en da   fair BIN doong.)

Numerus clausus

Restricted admission.

With free tuition, German universities don’t use money to determine who gets an education and who doesn’t. But they’re having a bit of a budget crunch so, if they don’t get more money from the government, the universities threatened to restrict admissions of new students for majors that don’t yet have restricted admission.

Medicine and law are two famous numerus clausus departments, with admissions depending on how many doctors and lawyers the government calculates Germany will need in x years.

An informal way German universities do restrict admission is by requiring students to pass certain highly-set hurdles in order to graduate (though you can put off graduation for a very long time while still taking classes and haunting libraries). Humanities subjects frequently require a Latin proficiency certificate. Other subjects use statistics classes for the purpose. Medical students’ ranks used to be further thinned by a notorious class in physics.

Even with free tuition, money still limits who can study and who cannot. The semesters are set up with long breaks so students can work enough to earn money for the next semester. Student rebates are provided to try to help with the costs of living and the costs of not working. The rebates I remember applied for foreign students and included low rent on well-designed student housing, cheaper mandatory health insurance (incl. dental and medicines), reduced or free public transportation (trains, buses, subways), cheaper admission to museums, movies, concerts, lakes and swimming pools…

“Schattenwissenschaft des Krieges”

“Shadow science of war,” headline to a Süddeutsche.de article about >$10 million the U.S. military has invested since 2000 in research projects at at least 22 German universities, careful curious institutions where $10 million can buy a lot of study. The Pentagon helped fund investigations into military explosive materials at Ludwig-Maximillians-Universität in Munich, for example; bulletproof glass [Panzerglas] and warheads [Sprengköpfe, exploding heads] at the Fraunhofer Institute in Freiburg; at Marburg, mini-drones and “nocturnal visual orientation in flying insects” useful for targeting munitions; at Saarland, $120,000 from the Army Research Laboratory for mathematical studies of linguistic structures, presumably useful in surveillance technology.

Süddeutsche.de and its investigation partner the Norddeutsche Rundfunk criticized the lack of transparency at the German universities and research institutes about having received the funding. Despite having “packs or prides of marketing experts,” the mostly-taxpayer-funded German schools’ reticence about U.S. military sponsorship meant journalists could only find them by going through lists in U.S. documents, including online searches of the database of the Federal Procurement Data System, which S.Z. said publishes all U.S. government purchases >$3000.

“And afterward strained excuses were even voiced, such as, the money was for basic research that surprised everyone when it turned out to have military applications. But the Pentagon would never have opened its cash register for pure love-of-neighbor, nor for scientific curiosity.”

Süddeutsche.de said 14 German universities have added “civil clauses” [Zivilklausel] to their by-laws stating that they will not accept research money from the German military, which also sponsors such projects. The University of Bremen did this, for example, and was then shocked to find its name in the U.S. database, having received $40,000 in 2011 and again in 2012 from the U.S. Air Force to study metal emissions in the upper atmosphere. Even if schools have such so-called civil clauses, the newspaper wrote, it is each individual German academic’s decision whether to accept military money for “dual-use” projects because academic freedom is guaranteed by Art. 5 of the German Constitution, section (3), which can be translated as “Art and science, research and teaching, are free. The freedom of teaching does not release instructors from their constitutional obligations” (to democracy and the human rights mandated elsewhere in the Grundgesetz, GG).

Update on 17 Dec 2013: The Swiss newspaper SontagsZeitung reported that in the past two years the Pentagon has provided “about a dozen” Swiss universities with “over a million dollars” in sponsoring for research projects in aerospace and computers. Schools included E.T.H. Lausanne and the universities of Zurich, Bern and Neuenburg.

(SHOTTEN vissen shoften   dess   CREE gess.)

Dann doch!

“Well, okay then.” Actually, this is yet another thrilled German headline about the warming of diplomatic relations between Iran and the U.S.A. The wonderful détente is very exciting. Hopefully, now, we can all get rich together, a wish expressed by my Iranian kitchenmates at German university ten years ago.

A recently published “history of Iran for beginners” said the country had ~38 auto manufacturing companies, presumably in response to international sanctions. Perhaps innovators like Google or Tesla could work out deals with some of these groups to supply novel parts for renewable-energy car projects. There could now be excellent internationally sponsored engineering programs at Iranian universities, and training exchanges around the world.

(Don DOCK.)

 

Orchideenfach

“Orchid subject.” Highly specialized university major. Süddeutsche Zeitung mentions Tibetology or Papyrology, for example, and notes that with sufficient practica and internships acquiring highly specialized expertise makes good sense with today’s technological opportunities in today’s economy.

(Orc id EH! en fochhh.)

Drittmittel

Third-party funding. Transparency International Germany is concerned about sponsoring agreements between German universities and the private sector. While state funding of university research has not substantially increased, total sponsor funding has doubled since 1998, and increased from 16% to 26% according to this Spiegel article. Sponsoring agreements are being kept secret, while sponsors can apparently get clauses allowing them e.g. to veto publishing of research results, insert op-ed material about their companies into university media, and nominate members of search committees seeking new faculty.

(DRITT mitt illll.)

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