European Elections 2024: Higher education and research positions of German parties

Plenary Session of the European Parliament
© DAAD Brussels

In the following summaries of the election programmes of all major, constitutionally loyal parties currently represented in the German Bundestag, the DAAD Brussels Office has presented their higher education and research policy positions, objectives and measures in the order of the results of the last European elections. The overviews of the parties have been enriched by their contributions to the survey of the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) on the 2024 European elections.

As part of the European People’s Party (EPP), the Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands (CDU) and the Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern (CSU) aim at focusing on democracy, the rule of law, a liberal constitutional order and a competitive Europe that is close to its citizens. With an offensive for research and innovation and a strong EU research framework programme, they want to strengthen Europe’s pioneering role in the development of key technologies and are committed to ensuring that the EU member states achieve the investment target of three percent of gross domestic product (GDP) for research and innovation as well as two percent for higher education. They call for the active involvement of higher education institutions before new legislation is passed in the areas of education, research and innovation, for example on issues relating to digital transformation, the rule of law and the strategic autonomy of universities. To promote the mobility of researchers and students, CDU and CSU advocate for the expansion and financial increase of the Erasmus+ programme, as well as the mutual recognition of certificates and diplomas in the European Education Area, for which they want to develop criteria that ensure the comparability of educational qualifications in all areas (school, higher education and vocational training) without undermining established structures.

Bündnis 90/Die Grünen are in favour of a European science and research policy that connects people and institutions across Europe and supports them in the development of open science. To this end, they are calling for an increase of the budget spent on research and development as a proportion of GDP in Europe. The promotion of academic mobility in the European Higher Education Area is crucial for them. Specifically, they want to double the funding for Erasmus+ in the Multiannual Financial Framework from 2028 so that more people, especially those from lower-income families and people with disabilities, can complete a learning mobility programme. They are also in favour of establishing and strengthening European alliances. In line with the idea of a European Degree, they support the further development of the European Approach as part of the Bologna Process in order to facilitate the recognition of joint degree programmes and joint degrees, and to create incentives for the internationalisation of degree programmes. Moverover, they advocate for extending the European Student Card (ESC) initiative with the digital student card in the Erasmus+ App to all students in the EU. They are also calling for the research framework programme to be significantly expanded in the next European financial framework. Horizon Europe must become more accessible and international by simplifying and reducing bureaucracy in the application process.

The Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschland (SPD) is committed to ensuring that good education and training does not depend on the origin, gender, disability state, financial situation or social status of the parents. The party is calling for widespread funding of European universities. The aim is to secure that education is free of charge from nursery school through apprenticeships and first degree programmes to Master’s degrees, which for the future, SPD is striving for throughout the EU. SPD is committed to the consistent implementation of the Bologna reform process. It is calling for a significant increase of the budget for Erasmus+ 2028-2034. Everyone who wants to have a learning experience abroad with Erasmus+, should be able to do so at least once by the age of 25. SPD also wants to significantly increase funding for Horizon Europe and its successor programme, preferably by introducing new own funds. Furthermore, it is calling for sufficient funding for international educational, cultural and scientific exchanges, not least because international cultural and educational policy plays a major role in conflict prevention. SPD wants to strengthen research internships and further training programmes for students and teachers. In the interests of the partner countries as well as to achieve the 2030 Agenda and prosperity and security in Europe, it wants to further expand the EU’s position in development cooperation (target: at least 0.7 per cent of GDP for development cooperation). In view of the shortage of skilled labour, SPD is calling for better using the potential of domestic skilled workforce through investing in further training, as well as the recruitment of professionals from non-European countries. An improved EU skilled labour immigration law is needed for the joint recruitment of skilled workers in Europe. SPD is committed to the rapid harmonisation of national access to the European labour market from third countries. To protect, maintain and promote the freedom of research, it wants to support EU monitoring and recommendation measures.

Die Linke calls for an inclusive approach to education characterised by intercultural dialogue, humanistic education, democratic exchange and independent and socially critical research and teaching. It is committed to a publicly funded education system without fees, that is needs-oriented and organised in a socially permeable manner throughout Europe, from nursery school to the doctorate level. In order to give more people access to mobility, Die Linke is calling for an Erasmus+ budget of 48 billion euros for the next Multiannual Financial Framework, in line with the CULT Committee’s demand in 2019. It is in favour of Europe-wide recognition of academic and professional qualifications. With a view to the European Higher Education Initiative, the party is calling for European Degrees for the benefits of students. It also calls for a quality assurance system that assesses universities in light of their contribution to inclusivity and makes the socio-ecological transformation as the yardstick. Die Linke wants to reform the Bologna Process so that universities throughout Europe are organised and perceived as open, social and democratic institutions in which teaching and research can develop freely and independently of the market and of profit, in a spirit of social responsibility. Die Linke finds that academic freedom is already being adequately formulated in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Bonn Declaration, on which basis it can be enforced. It is calling for the right of residence to be guaranteed for people who have taken up training or studies in the EU and who should be protected from deportation. The party is also committed to ensuring that academics who are politically persecuted can continue their academic work at universities in Germany and the EU.

The Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP) wants to further strengthen excellent education and independent research, which it finds essential for innovation and prosperity in Europe. Accordingly, the Erasmus+ programme should be further expanded, especially to improve access for teachers, pupils and trainees. The party is calling for other EU partner countries to be offered the status of programme country, particularly the accession candidates. FDP also particularly wants to support multinational universities and study programmes in border regions, as well as pre-doctoral and post-doctoral programmes that require a stay in at least two European universities or research institutes. It wants to find suitable solutions for the legal entity of university alliances. The party also calls for the free movement of education to be established as a new fundamental freedom of the EU. In order to simplify the planning of stays abroad, FDP is in favour of harmonising the semester and examination periods in the EU. A centralised online application portal for the EU is to be introduced in order to simplify the application process. The FDP is also in favour of the introduction of the digital European Student Card. It wants to expand the EU framework programme for research and innovation, Horizon Europe, with a particular focus on biotechnology and genetic engineering, energy technology, digitalisation and artificial intelligence. The FDP welcomes the initiative to also recognise scientific freedom at European level. In terms of labour mobility, it wants to remove obstacles in the EU and simplify complicated, lengthy processes in order to give motivated and talented people easier access to the European labour market. The party also wants to improve the comparability and mutual recognition of certificates and qualifications and speed up processes, e.g. through digital one-stop shops as central points of contact in each EU member state. In view of the shortage of skilled labour, FDP is calling for an EU strategy for the recruitment of skilled workers.