Studierende mit Mund- und Nasenmaske sitzen in der Begrüßungsveranstaltung für Studierende im ersten Semester an der Universität Hohenheim. Das Wintersemester 2020/2021 beginnt in Baden-Württemberg am 2. November unter verschärften Hygienebedingungen aufgrund der Coronavirus-Pandemie.

Scientists criticize the cancellation of around 6000 scholarships from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) as a result of planned budget cuts by the Federal Foreign Office. Günter M. Ziegler, President of Freie Universität Berlin, told the Tagesspiegel when asked: “We are very concerned that the international reputation of German universities will suffer as a result of these cuts. In view of the war in Ukraine, it is also incomprehensible that, among other things, there will be a lack of funds that we at Freie Universität Berlin planned to use to quickly integrate fled students into our system with targeted measures.”

According to a spokeswoman, the reduced allocation of long-term study and doctoral scholarships is particularly affecting Freie Universität, as it has been one of the main destinations in Germany for young scientists from all over the world for years.

Peter Frensch, Acting President of Humboldt University in Berlin, made a similar statement when asked: “Humboldt University is one of the largest recipients of funds from the German Academic Exchange Service and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. As a result, the announced cuts endanger Berlin as a place of science as a whole.”

In view of the current geopolitical challenge, Frensch also thinks it is “absolutely incomprehensible” that such reductions and cancellations are being sought. Summer schools, which are popular with students, are particularly at risk from the planned cuts, as are digital teaching partnerships.

According to a spokesman, the university also finds it problematic that the deletions are intended to affect programs that serve to integrate students from abroad. “We therefore appeal to politicians to take responsibility for revising the cuts,” the HU said.

Geraldine Rauch, President of the Technical University (TU) Berlin, reacted to the cuts with the words: “The TU Berlin is an international university. Especially in times of crisis like ours, it is essential that students have the opportunity to come to Germany for a year, get to know Germany and later act as bridge builders in their countries or support our economy as specialists.”

It is also important that TU students go abroad and perceive problems such as climate change from a global perspective and are able to establish international networks. “The individual scholarships of the DAAD are an essential contribution here, the reduction by half sends the wrong signal”.

The TU was hit particularly hard by the end of the Integra project, which was used to bring refugees from Afghanistan or Ukraine back to university.

Other former funding recipients reacted to the cuts on social media with the objection that only the DAAD scholarships mentioned made their formative research stays possible.

Philipp Maurischat, a postdoc and biogeoscientist at Leibniz Universität Hannover, wrote: “Thanks to DAAD scholarships, I’ve been to Eastern Europe twice.” Hardly any other part of his studies inspired him so much for science and research. “Germany as a science location will not function if we save it to death.”

The background is that the DAAD will probably have to cancel around 6,000 scholarships for researchers, students and doctoral candidates due to budget cuts by the Federal Foreign Office. This emerges from a press release from last week.

The funding of the DAAD by the Federal Foreign Office under Annalena Baerbock (Greens) is to be reduced from 204 million euros in 2021 to 195 million euros this year. According to a cabinet decision, the funds are to be reduced by a further four million euros in 2023.

In addition, the Federal Foreign Office is reducing funds for the DAAD this year as part of “global underspending”. This amounts to a kind of partial blocking of the funds originally granted. “We do not yet have the exact amount,” a spokesman for the DAAD told the Tagesspiegel on request.

In the past year, the exchange service sent around 64,000 Germans and foreigners into the world with more than 250 programs. “We view these impending cuts with great regret and serious concern. They counteract the conceptually correct definitions and financial commitments in the federal government’s coalition agreement,” said DAAD President Joybrato Mukherjee in Bonn last week.

They would significantly reduce the funding opportunities for universities, students and scientists for years. According to the DAAD, it will be able to award 50 percent fewer study and doctoral scholarships in the future, and 700 annual long-term scholarships will be eliminated.

Around 5,000 short-term grants will also be eliminated, which means fewer lecture and congress trips, summer and winter courses. In addition, the DAAD cannot fill lectureships and lectureships, 100 of the 450 locations worldwide would be closed in the medium term.

In addition, the DAAD is worried about further project funds from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF): Large projects such as for the integration of refugees at German universities (Integra) or for the digitization of international university cooperation (IMKD) will expire in 2023 and have so far been funded by the BMBF funded by Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP).

“The ministry has proposals for follow-up programs or program continuations of the DAAD, but their implementation is currently in question,” said a spokesman for the DAAD.

Its President Mukherjee hopes “that the cuts in the parliamentary budget preparation process will be reversed and hope and expect the same for our friendly partner organizations, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Goethe Institute, who are also affected by cutback scenarios.” The budget cuts planned for the 2023 federal budget still need the green light from the Bundestag and Bundesrat, and Parliament is due to vote on them from the end of November.

The traffic light government had promised in its coalition agreement to increase the financial support of the DAAD and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation – and would break its promise with the planned cuts.

The Federal Foreign Office was the most important donor for the DAAD in 2021 with a funding share of 33.5 percent, followed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (32.5 percent), the EU and other international organizations (20.7 percent) and the Federal Ministry for Development ( 7.5 percent).