University of Bremen Writes Open Letter to Mayor Bovenschulte

Due to the planned science budget cuts, the University Executive Board and Staff Council have written an open letter to the Mayor of Bremen State, Dr. Andreas Bovenschulte.

Dear Mr. Bovenschulte,

In light of the disclosed benchmarks for the upcoming Bremen State 2022/2023 double budget, we see immense detriment to the university, its current and future students, and staff, as well as Bremen State occurring. The implementation of the benchmarks from the Senator’s Office for Finance would mean long-term and sustainable damage to the future of Bremen.

Initial Position

The University of Bremen has no financial reserves.

Degree programs and disciplines are already only equipped to a minimum within their fields (professorships). Financial cuts would unavoidably pose a threat to the existence of individual degree courses and disciplines.

The expenditure of Bremen State per university student lies far below the average (around one third less than the national average). This means that Bremen places low on the list of the 16 states.

Science Plan 2025

The aim of the Science Plan 2025 is to move closer to the national average in order to remain in a competitive position. The Science Plan was welcomed and impartially supported by the Senate and all fractions of the Bremen Parliament and Scientific Board.

The university placed its trust in the intended financing stated in the Science Plan. With good faith in the coming funding and securing, the Psychology Department was not closed and the field of Inclusive Education was expanded for example. To bridge this period, program-binded second and third party funding was secured. Said funding ceased in 2020 and must now be replaced by core funding. This list goes on.

Based on the above, the Science Plan 2025 does not equate to any growth of the university in the first years until and including 2023, but rather the taking over of temporary funds as part of the basic budget. Thus, what is already in existence is what is being financed.

Consequences if the Science Plan is not implemented

As the main part of the university’s basic budget includes staff costs, this is where benchmark cuts will be felt the most. A stop on recruitment, no reoccupation of positions that have become free, and no extension of temporary contracts would be immediate consequences. There would also be a grave worsening of the current employment conditions for all status groups: Even bigger workloads, less equipment, no relief opportunities.

If the basic financing stated in the Science Plan is not implemented, there will also be direct consequences for studies and teaching as the required staff will no longer be available. Degree courses and disciplines will no longer be able to fully function and will be at risk of closure. Study spaces will be reduced and thus also jobs.

The quantity and quality of degree programs will decrease, which will result in damage to the reputation of Bremen. This, in turn, will lead to less students and less potential for Bremen in the long term. The competition for recruiting outstanding staff in science, technology, and administration will become even more difficult. We will fall behind!

The university’s ability to remain in a competitive position with regard to funding outside Bremen will decrease if there is a lesser basic equipping. There are critical lower thresholds for this, to which we have already moved closer. The research and innovation strength of the state is decreasing and the state is not fulfilling its responsibility towards the generation of now 20-year-olds. These are the people who will significantly form the future of the state, its society, and economy in the coming decades. Massive damage would be inflicted upon the university as a positive state asset, the current generation of students, and the state in the middle and long term.

Due to the framework conditions, cuts to the Science Plan will mainly affect the universities and not the non-university research institutes. The latter are, however, often located in Bremen because of the university. If the university is weakened, this will lead to a decrease in state attractiveness for non-university research in the long run. This also poses a risk to jobs and will incur a loss of innovation strength.

Another example of the dimensions with which we are dealing: The Finance Senator’s Office is planning for 100 million euros less in 2023 than registered by the Science Senator’s Office according to the Science Plan. Based on this, we estimate that the University of Bremen would need to contribute 60 million euros, which constitutes half of the university’s staff costs from the basic funding.

The planned benchmarks from the Finance Senator’s Office put the university’s and state’s ability to function in the future at risk. Additionally, they carry immense consequences for current and future students, staff, and all Bremen citizens.

We strongly ask you and the whole Senate to financially secure the Science Plan. Do not put Bremen’s great future in danger.

Bremen, March 03, 2021

On behalf of the University of Bremen Executive Board
Bernd Scholz-Reiter

On behalf of the University of Bremen Staff Council

Link to Petition of Bremen State universities against the planned science budget cuts

Glass Hall of the University of Bremen