George Turner, Kolumnist des Tagesppiegel, Berlin ex Senator von Berlin Foto: Mike Wolff

The subject of heated discussions in the course of the nationwide protest movements from the end of the 1960s was above all the participation of the students in the self-governing bodies. It was dealt with under the keywords group university and one-third parity.

With the idea of ​​”democratizing” the university, the so-called rule of the professors was to be abolished and the representatives of the groups – in addition to the professors: scientific staff, students and non-scientific staff – were to be given a say in all decisions.

The main points of the higher education political demands were the abolition of the chair principle, the public advertising of professorships, the abolition of the habilitation, the transition of the assistants, academic councilors and lecturers to “lecturers of a new kind”. In addition, it was about the freedom to study and the guarantee of autonomous study decisions with regard to the study objective, subject combination, examination content and examination performance. The demands also included family-independent educational support, public committee meetings and, above all, equal representation of the member groups in the self-governing bodies of the university.

At the beginning of the 1970s, higher education laws were passed in some federal states. The individual federal states took very different paths in the direction of “group universities”. The Federal Constitutional Court recognized this as a permissible form, but at the same time set limits on the participation of the groups. For example, professors or qualified scientists in the senates and other decision-making bodies of the universities should have the majority of the votes.

At the beginning of the 1980s, the first predominantly negative balances were drawn after more than ten years of group university. The personnel and material decisions to be made to promote scientific work in research, teaching and study were often tied to the interests of politicized groups in the group university, responsibility based on competence was paralyzed, the level of performance in research, teaching and study was reduced and the Effectiveness of self-government, which is taking up more and more time and energy, has been impaired.

This has weakened the autonomy of the university and made increasing bureaucratic intervention by the state necessary. The group university is in a desolate situation with its unstable and often divided self-image, its internal and external burdens and its reduced performance.

Since the early 1990s, there has also been a certain trend towards depoliticization of student interest groups. Ultimately, the student protest movement failed on its own: due to its own dynamism, its compulsion to act and its feelings of omnipotence, which had clothed themselves politically. The protests culminated in the presumptuous self-assessment that the scientific – including the student – intelligentsia must become the “collective theorist of the proletariat”.

What can be said, however, is that the university reform debate owes its impetus to the student protest movement, at least in the first few years. However, one should have taken to heart that politics does not belong as a fight, but only as an object of research at the university.