Reshaping Higher Education in Germany and the US

by Melina Kompella and Nikki Schroeder

On March 4, the Institute was delighted to welcome Tobias Schulze-Cleven (Cal Alum and Associate Professor at the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations), who delivered a lecture on “Disruption through Regulation: Reshaping Higher Education in the United States and Germany.” Schulze-Cleven, an expert on comparative employment relations across wealthy democracies, explained how regulatory strategies in both the United States and Germany are being utilized to redefine higher education systems, while also highlighting convergences and divergences between the two educational structures.

Referring to numerous statistical and analytical models, Schulze-Cleven emphasized the hurdles of federalism and academic freedom faced by both countries in the pursuit of transforming higher education. He analyzed this hindrance, describing how the understanding of academic freedoms of individual students and professors in Germany, as well as that of the individual institution in the US, have created challenges for the state in its effort to bring about change. Schulze-Clemens also explored the divergences of the two educational systems, contrasting the United States’ market-driven university model against Germany’s state-supported model. He also explored statistics pertaining to higher education access between the two countries. Indeed, the U.S. has a higher rate of higher education access, but Germany has a higher rate of students who complete their degrees. Accordingly, such divergences make it difficult to integrate the two systems.

Schulze-Cleven concluded by stating that education officials in both the USA and Germany, in an effort to transform higher education models, have worked to promote self-reliance among universities, which is achieved by cutting financing per student in both countries, bolstering rivalry, and decentralizing decision-making in an effort to increase autonomy. The Q&A, which involved approximately 25 attendees, touched on the role of rivalry between universities, the market structure of higher education in the US, and culturally variable understandings of academic freedom. Schulze-Cleven highlighted that the structure of higher education in each country is entwined in both culture and politics.