Dear Senators, dear Members of the Hamburg Parliament. Because we fear for the basic substance of our studies, the good reputation of the Hamburg University of Technology and the future of Hamburg as a science location, we feel obliged to bring the causes of this fear and our perspective on it into the public and political debate.
Therefore, we as the student body of the TUHH turn to you to report on the alarming extent of the financial imbalance and the associated threat to our studies, because we locate the solution to these problems within the scope of action of the Hamburg Senate.
The annually growing deficit of Hamburg's universities, knowingly caused by the Senate, endangers the basic substance of our university. The last Hochschulvereinbarung did not sufficiently cover cost and tariff increases of the last seven years. Reserves and HSP funds, which were used to compensate for this ever-widening gap, have long since been completely used up at the TUHH. These losses now lead to a deficit of over 10 million euros per year.
TUHH has been repeatedly assured by politicians over the years that future funds would compensate for this deficit. However, the talks so far have not shown any corresponding results. Because of the pandemic, it was now not possible for the responsible authority (BWFGB) to create the necessary compensation. Instead, the TUHH was asked to present a balanced budget for the coming years without additional funds, thus saving the deficit in existing structures.
We consider this demand by the authority to be untenable and it entails a fundamental loss of confidence in the context of past assurances.
Savings of this magnitude would cause momentous damage to the basic substance and reputation of the TUHH. Basic lectures such as structural engineering or thermodynamics could be put in jeopardy, as a result of which students in general engineering, civil engineering, bioprocess engineering, engineering science, mechanical engineering and process engineering could no longer complete their bachelor's degree, or could do so late or with poor quality. The negotiation over the possible suspension of professorships in basic subjects alone is absolutely staggering. Even a supposed concession of these backfillings ensures only the most rudimentary level of education for the corresponding engineers.
In 2018, the Hamburg Senate passed the TUHH growth program with 17 growth professorships, which is based on the corresponding Drucksache of the Bürgerschaft. We see this growth path in danger if, in parallel, the basic budget is not covered. In 2019, in coordination with BWFGB, unused growth funds already had to be used to reduce the accumulated deficit. Without additional growth funds, only a maximum of 10 of the 17 planned growth professorships could be implemented. Among other things, the ethics professorship, which is a core component of the freshly introduced Data Science degree program, is in question. The absence of this long-promised professorship would be a moral indictment. The planned introduction of digital mechanical engineering would also be eliminated. This represents a bitter setback for a future-oriented technical university. Cutting professorships in computer science and energy systems research, as well as a halt to tenders for further professorships, makes excellence unthinkable and catching up with renowned universities impossible in the foreseeable future. A successful growth of the TUHH and a successful future of Hamburg as a science location can only be guaranteed on the basis of fully financed basic structures.
We consider the demands of the authority to be particularly cynical, since the TUHH has already been on an austerity course for years. Since 1999, following the target and performance agreements between the university and the authority, the number of students (3738 ➔ 7698) has more than doubled, while the number of core-funded professors (101 ➔ 89) has fallen and the number of core-funded scientific staff (170 ➔ 253) and senior engineers (55 ➔ 60.5) has not increased sufficiently. These developments illustrate how the savings as well as the necessary, but not possible, expansion of personnel impair the conditions for high-quality teaching at the TUHH. Instead, further investments in the quality of teaching and better supervision ratios would be desirable.
It would be a false assessment of the situation that this downsizing is only now having negative consequences, because in recent years there have already been vacancies for professorships and consequently incomplete training. For example, for years computer scientists have been trained who never had the opportunity to attend a lecture on databases. This circumstance is absolutely embarrassing in the age of Big Data and Machine Learning.
As a general consequence, the institutes have been forced for years to conduct their courses according to the principle of mass processing. A concrete manifestation of this problem can be seen in the virtual lack of alternatives in the forms of examinations in the Bachelor's program. The mass examination, as the most economically appealing and didactically pointless form of examination, dominates the Bachelor's program unchallenged. Currently, it also poses a massive health risk to students, as they are forced to take exams in attendance if they do not want to jeopardize their study progress.
How can it be that in this context 60 million euros were advertised in November 2020 for the renovation of university buildings, when this funding merely represents long overdue maintenance of university buildings? And in the face of these circumstances, with what impudence can one title a matter of course as an "economic stimulus package for science" and thus create the impression that the universities are already being supported financially on a large scale? This definitely cannot be called an economic stimulus package.
In view of the acute danger to our university, we call upon the Senate and the Parliament of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg to secure the basic funding of the TUHH and to fully compensate for tariff increases in the future. Without an adjustment of the basic funding, the structure of the TUHH is fundamentally endangered. The TUHH's reputation among students has already suffered massively. Reallocating growth and teaching funds will lead to a direct step backwards for Hamburg as a center of science. We call on you to ensure the studyability of all our degree programs and to guarantee the quality of teaching.
The student body of the TUHH, represented by
- Marius Stübbe, President of the Student Parliament
- Georg Spies, 1st Chair of AStA
- Kolja Eggers, student representative in the Academic Senate
- Alexander Seeling, student representative in the Academic Senate
- Tobias Marschner, student representative in the Academic Senate
- Mareike Wendelmuth, student representative in the Academic Senate
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