Illiberal Universities, Authoritarian Societies?

A conversation about future higher education policy as part of the 'What is the City?' Digital Academy.

Does the new higher education law threaten to sell out education in Bavaria?

The conversation was livestreamed on Thursday, 18 February at 19:30 on the home page of the Münchner Kammerspiele.

The universities are in turmoil, and no one notices it because of the coronavirus. The democratic advisory board structure is to be abolished, which is justified using the vocabulary of an authoritarian hero accompanied by sabre-rattling. There is talk of ‘storm troopers’, which are now required again, along with ‘decision-making power’ and even ‘unleashing’. This is a vocabulary that has unsavoury echoes of Germany’s authoritarian history.

What does the Higher Education Amendment mean for the society in which we will live in future? What consequences will recourse to the economic ideologies of optimisation and utilisation have for future generations? And how does this impact Bavaria, when there is still talk of ‘downsizing’ and ‘deregulation’, while it is becoming clearer worldwide that we urgently need more public assets, not fewer. Will educational freedom as Wilhelm von Humboldt conceived it be abandoned in favour of a totally commercialised, neoliberal-authoritarian business model? Education’s degradation into a commodity is a recurring topic of conversation. Does the Higher Education Amendment regard universities as suppliers for industry?

Is education not the key to a liberal, open and democratic society? In light of these current political events, the Kammerspiele’s playwrights ask students, researchers and professors about the current debates regarding the new Higher Education Amendment. How can art, scholarship and teaching be defended as a public asset, especially in times of crisis, and thereby maintain their autonomy? And what consequences will the authoritarian turn in higher education policy have for our open society?

With: Prof. Anke Doberauer, Felicitas Friedrich, Christian Frühm, Roxanne Phillip, Viola Hasselberg, Martin Valdés-Stauber and Harald Wolff.