In an open letter, more than 3,200 first-time signatories demand that the budget cuts in the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH) be stopped. According to the letter addressed to Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens), the savings would endanger international research exchange and deny researchers and scientists the necessary and low-threshold funding.
Around 6,000 scholarships from the DAAD, whose most important donor is the Federal Foreign Office, are to be eliminated due to the cuts. Cuts of around eight million euros are already planned for the current year 2022. In the following year, the savings amount to more than ten million euros.
The Foreign Office justifies the cuts with savings in the federal budget, as reported by the daily mirror. Despite the cuts, no scholarship commitments would be taken away, but criticism of the plan and the reduced number of new awards persists.
“German universities must continue to be international places for scientific exchange, research, teaching and learning,” says the open letter, which was also signed by more than 50 professional associations. The signatories particularly criticize the fact that the organizations responsible for international scientific exchange should already make savings during ongoing operations.
In their letter, the signatories point out that the cuts contradict the coalition agreement. An increase in institutional funding from the DAAD and AvH by three percent per year had been decided there. According to the letter, the savings would be part of further cuts, including the withdrawal of approved projects from the Ministry of Education.
“Especially the short-term cuts in current or announced funding [undermine; Note d. Red.] the trust between the institutions and in the associated legal and procedural security,” write the signatories.
Overall, this approach damages Germany’s reputation as a science location. As the scientists fear, the abolition of funding would cement a two-tier system, which can already be seen to some extent in German research today. Therefore, at the end of their open letter, they call on Annalena Baerbock and the members of the Bundestag to stop the cuts.
On Tuesday afternoon, almost 4,000 people – in addition to the first signatories – had signed the open letter, as one of the initiators announced on Twitter. It was sent to the Foreign Office on Monday.