Accepted Paper:

University reform made liveable  


Dorle Dracklé (University of Bremen)

Paper short abstract:

Germany’s universities resemble a laboratory: for years now the most startling experiments in economising and educational excellence have been being performed on them in the name of modernity and the future. The remodelling of the university landscape in accordance with economic criteria has exacted its sacrifices – in particular from a discipline called Social Anthropology. Here an autoethnography.

Paper long abstract:

My lecture refers to a letter circulating lately at my university. The management was planning changes to the hurriedly designed BA-MA programmes. "To make liveable", the positive-sounding phrase used, stood in stark contrast to the catalogue of strict regulations according to which the new programmes had to be re-designed. These demands were flatly rejected by the faculty; in their eyes the central administration had overstepped its bounds. At bottom, however, the potential resistance against reforms has declined. Since the seventies, German universities have been caught in an ongoing reform that has worn them down and resulted finally in the introduction of the Bologna Process in the absence of any serious protests. The policy that devised an advertised competition for the title of "University of Excellence" has met with little opposition. It plans to transform a few universities into elite institutions on the model of Harvard. Most German universities took part in the competition for the sake of the attached research funds, which have otherwise become scarce. The farewell to Humboldtian principles of higher education, truth and freedom of research proceeded without further ado.

In my autoethnography, I describe the transition of the German university from the status of a public corporation to that of an economic enterprise. The discipline of Social Anthropology has been particularly affected by this development, for it has little to offer by the standards of cost analyses. In many anthropology departments positions have been cut, courses of study dropped and colleagues were forced into interdisciplinary departments.

Panel W034
Anthropologies of university reform: restructuring of higher education - anthropological perspectives