After the two German states unified in 1990, the tendency to transplant West German practices to the former East Germany was particularly pronounced in areas where systemic differences and perceived inefficiency met ideological reservations. The higher education system was among them. Comprehensive institutional, policy, and personnel transfer from West to East ensued. Starting in the mid 1990s after many failed initiatives, however, new policies were launched in the unified Germany. Reinforced by feedback from institutional and policy transfer to the East, factors such as Europeanization and globalization empowered newly formed advocacy coalitions to advance a reform agenda. Competition and performance seeded other ideas, prominent among them diversification, internationalization, autonomy, and accountability. Existing institutions and firmly rooted traditions still condition and limit change, and reforming the reforms has become commonplace. Differentiation among Länder and higher education institutions has become more pronounced, adding to the variety of outcomes. In ways unforeseen in 1990, some areas of the German higher education system have seen paradigmatic change, while others have survived relatively unscathed. The recalibration of the system continues, and reform pressure persists.
Helga A. Welsh
The Freie Wähler (free voters, FW) offer the rare chance to analyze parties in the making. Their long-time anchoring in local elections, centrist, middle-class political orientation, and bifurcated organizational structure distinguish them from other new political parties that aspire to participate in Land (state), national and European elections. Against the backdrop of FW success in Bavaria, where they received 10.2 percent of the vote in 2008, this article explores the FW expansion to the state level but not their national aspirations. In contrast to most studies that emphasize opportunity structures that work in favor of new political actors, this article highlights their dialectical nature. For example, the FW self-image is based on their difference from political parties, but the rules of the game push them to the status of "almost-party" at the local level and parties at the Land level. Their local roots are a source of legitimacy, but when they reach beyond, divisions among members and voters hold back their electoral fortunes. Independence and issue orientation are appealing to some voters but hamper the establishment of a clear identity and effective campaigning in state elections. Success for FW candidates is linked to the weakness of the dominant parties in the conservative camp. Spatial-temporal conditions are significant in considering the future of the FW at the Land level.
Helga A. Welsh
German unification prompted expectations of harmonization in political culture and promises of equivalent living conditions across the federation. Almost three decades later, the revival of narratives based on East-West differences has raised concerns whether inner unity, a term coined to describe political and material convergence across the former East-West divide, has stagnated or fallen behind. Frustration with the process of unification based on East-West contrasts, however, tends to downplay achievements and, importantly, regional diversity across the federation. I advocate a shift in perspective to the subnational (Land and communal) levels and illustrate regional variation with examples that address equivalent living conditions and demographic change. North-South differences coexist with East-West and within-region differences, suggesting not two but four or five Germanies. The eastern regions still occupy a special place in the unified Germany; they contribute to agenda setting and policy making with important implications across the federation.
Helga A. Welsh
Characterized by a highly complex and segmented decision-making structure and strong conventions and values, German higher education was long considered impervious to significant change. In recent years, several initiatives demonstrate both the resistance to, and prospects for, profound reforms. This article focuses on two such endeavors: the establishment of junior professorships and the introduction of general tuition fees. Both policies aim to break ironclad traditions—in the first case, the entry qualification for professorships; in the second, the principle of free education. The discourse surrounding the establishment of these initiatives has emphasized performance and competition. The new advocacy coalitions and their opponents, however, use different frames to interpret these terms. The battle of ideas and policies regarding a reconfigured academic hierarchy has been shaped by stakeholders in the scientific community, with political actors taking a secondary role. On the other hand, the discourse surrounding the introduction of tuition fees reverses this order, with political actors taking the prominent role. Discourse patterns and involvement of political parties matter. The analysis reveals the competing rhetorical and policy frames that support policy diversity. Policy change adds to, rather than eliminates, existing structures.