Cooperation between the Federal Government and the Länder
Germany's federal structure regulates the distribution of responsibilities between the Federal Government and the states (Länder) - including in the area of education. The Länder are in charge of general education and therefore also of schools. However, the Federal Government also has certain responsibilities. The Federal Government and the Länder work together to meet their national responsibility for education in Germany.
Except where the Basic Law specifically states otherwise, the Länder
have the right to enact legislation. In the area of education, this includes schools, higher education, adult education, and general continuing education. Administrative responsibilities in these areas lie almost exclusively with the Länder
. The rules are set out in detail in the Länder
constitutions and in Länder
laws on preschools, schools, higher education, adult learning, and continuing education. The Länder
are also responsible for the remuneration and pensions of their civil servants (including teachers at schools and universities).
According to the Basic Law, the Federal Government is in charge of the following aspects of education, science, and research:
- Initial and continuing vocational training outside schools
- University admissions and university degrees (in these areas, the Länder can enact deviating legal provisions)
- Training assistance
- Grants for research and technological development, including young researchers
- Youth work and youth welfare services
- Protection of participants in distance learning programmes
- Professional licences in legal professions
- Professional licences in medical and paramedical professions
- Measures to promote employment; labour market and employment research
In addition, the Federal Government is responsible for legislation on foreign affairs and on the rights and obligations of civil servants. The Status of Civil Servants Act, which came into force on 1 April 2009, makes direct national provisions governing the status of civil servants in the Länder and municipalities.
The Basic Law includes provisions on cooperation between the Federal Government and the Länder
in areas of joint responsibility. According to Article 91b Paragraph 1 of the Basic Law, the Federal Government and the Länder
can agree to work together to support the following areas in cases of supraregional importance:
- Institutions and projects in the field of non-university research
- Science and research projects at universities (such agreements must be approved by all the Länder)
- Research buildings at universities, including large-scale research facilities
The contents and structure of these areas of joint responsibility are set out in an administrative agreement between the Federal Government and the Länder on the establishment of a Joint Science Conference (GWK), which came into force on 1 January 2008.
According to the Basic Law, the Federal Government and the Länder can also agree to work together in assessing the performance of the education system compared with other countries and producing reports and recommendations on this subject. An administrative agreement about this entered into force on 1 January 2007.
A modern education system needs mobility for teachers and learners, comparability, and equal opportunities. To achieve the necessary consistency in education and research, the Länder
jointly formed the Standing Conference of Länder Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs
(KMK). One of the main responsibilities of the KMK is to achieve consensus and engage in cooperation to ensure that learners, students, teachers, and research staff enjoy the highest possible level of mobility an
d equal conditions between the Länder
. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research takes part in the meetings of the KMK.
The Federal Government and the Länder
have joint national responsibility for education and research, regardless of their respective responsibilities in the federal system. In their joint Qualification Initiative
of 2008, they set themselves the target of spending ten per cent of GDP on education and research - a pathbreaking political decision. The Federal Government and the Länder
have also agreed to introduce measures addressing all levels of the education system, from early childhood education to higher education. For example, they initiated the Higher Education Pact
and the Excellence Initiative
, two programmes that provide billions of euros of funding to enable institutions of higher education to create new university places and enhance their international competitiveness.