Changed Academic Relationship Between Professors and Students at Uni Potsdam: Impact of Bologna 2011–2012

Christen Hairston


The University of Potsdam (Uni Potsdam), a research-intensive university situated in former East Germany, is no stranger to the major German and European policy reforms that have transformed the German higher education system over the past decade and a half. Uni Potsdam's rich regional past, young institutional history, and low state funding present a remarkable context of reform. This case study analyzes the perceptions of 25 professors amid Bologna and national reforms and found significant changes to the structure of faculty work, teaching and learning, and interaction between professors and students (Hairston 2013). This paper focuses on one thread of these findings: the ways in which the Bologna Process, during major national reforms, has changed the academic relationships between students and professors at Uni Potsdam 2011–2012.

The Bologna Process

The Bologna Process stemming from the Bologna Agreement of (1999) was initiated by the European Commission and sought to (a) improve transferability of degrees for students across Europe and beyond, (b) support the goals of a united European Higher Education Area (EHEA), (c) restructure all European degrees to the Bachelor's/Master's/PhD model, and (d) address social issues like gender inequality and an increasingly diverse society (EHEA 2010; Pritchard 2010; Witte et al. 2008). As an original signatory of the Bologna Agreement and an invested member of the process, Germany was involved from the policy's inception.

German Higher Education Reforms

Simultaneous to Bologna, the German higher education system also engaged in its own significant reforms. German higher education is traditionally a loosely coupled system, both institutionally and nationally. Over the past decade and a half, institutions and state officials (a) built a more prescribed curricular structure via Bologna, (b) agreed upon a degree qualification framework, (c) improved internationalization initiatives of the tertiary education system, (d) introduced tuition fees in some states in 2007 and in 2014 dropped fees and became free for all, (e) increased competition in professorial work within and between institutions, (f) expanded the professorial hierarchy to include the Junior Professor (JP), and (g) shifted governance responsibilities within institutions (BMBF and KMK 2008; Charlier 2008; Enders et al. 2002; Hoell et al. 2009; Witte et al. 2008). No doubt the many reforms coming from Europe and Germany have impacted the way Uni Potsdam's professors operated and students engaged.

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