In Germany, education, including the so-called “tertiary sector”, i.e. higher education, is predominantly the responsibility and sponsorship of the state. That’s a good thing. Unlike in the USA, for example, private schools and universities are subject to state control and have to follow state guidelines.
In the course of the Bologna reform, the creative leeway for the universities was generally significantly expanded, instead of ministerial officials, university councils are now responsible for control, but at the same time the state and – since education is a state matter in Germany – the respective state sets standards and makes the funds available .
In addition to state universities, there are also universities in Germany that are privately or publicly sponsored, as well as foundation universities. These must also be based on state requirements for their qualifications and approval procedures, but can also set their own content-related accents resulting from the specific sponsorship.
Universities in church sponsorship have a great tradition. They see themselves as mediators between church and society. When making appointments, they can take the religious orientation of the institution into account and give it special weight in the design of the teaching content.
Until a few years ago, the population in Germany was divided into three: one third Protestant, one third Catholic, one third non-religious or belonging to other non-Christian religions. Meanwhile, if polls are to be believed, the trend is that only about half of the population is made up of members of a Christian religious community and the other half are made up of non-religious and other religious communities, particularly Muslims and Jews.
The non-religious form the majority in this half. According to the Statista survey, only 38 percent of people over the age of 18 living in Germany describe themselves as religious. Not all, but very many, of those who describe themselves as non-religious feel connected to a humanistic worldview, i.e. they do not believe that humane practice is linked to moral obligations and values of a specific religion, but to universal ones be able to invoke principles of humanity.
Only a small part of these secular humanists are organized in communities and they are underrepresented in political practice in the pre-political space, in educational institutions and in social perception. The Humanist Association Berlin-Brandenburg is a particularly active and successful part of the secular-humanist activities. He pursues the goal of founding a humanistic university in Berlin.
I support this goal because it is long overdue that we implement equal treatment, which is stipulated in our constitution. Accordingly, Germany is not a secular state, but an ideologically neutral state that is obliged to treat religious and ideological communities equally.
To date we are far from that. However, the situation in the federal states is very different and Berlin is already the most advanced in this regard. The founding of a humanistic university would convincingly continue this path towards equal treatment.
In addition to training in social work, applied ethics and humanistic life skills, the aim of such a university should also be international cooperation in research and teaching, which includes the perspective of an internationally oriented university. In any case, I am prepared to work towards this goal and I very much hope that the Berlin Senate will support it.