Trends in American and German Higher Education



The project on Changing German and American Systems of Higher Education and Research published a report early in 2002. Edited by Fellow Robert McCormick Adams, Trends in American and German Higher Education, provides a comprehensive and systemic look at higher education in the United States and Germany. The report takes into account differences in population size, political climates, and traditions of the two countries’ educational systems, and it presents an overview and analysis of problems currently facing higher education and research in each country. The report also illustrates the complexity and difficulty of making such large-scale, binational comparisons, while still illuminating the condition of higher education and research institutions in the two countries.

In the United States, the higher education system is decentralized, comprised of some 3,000 public and private institutions, which are governed for the most part by individual boards of trustees. In contrast, Germany’s system is based on widely available government funding, and an ethic of equal opportunity, rather than differentiation, prevails. The report addresses the trend in the U.S. toward increased privatization and a focus on competitiveness at the elite level, while also examining the effects in Germany on research and teaching of swelling enrollments, financial constraints, and the traditional highly centralized educational leadership structure.

The American Academy and its German counterpart institution, the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, organized and oversaw preparation of this report under the guidance of Robert McCormick Adams (University of California, San Diego), on behalf of the Academy, and Dieter Simon, President of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. In the report, Adams provides a comparative assessment of the two education systems; Roger Geiger (Pennsylvania State University) contributes an overview of U.S. higher education, and also an analysis of its situation at the beginning of the 21st century; and a team of German scholars (Jürgen Enders, University of Kassel; Barbara M. Kehm, Wittenberg Institute for Higher Education Research; and Uwe Schimank, FernUniversität in Hagen) contributes a chapter providing an overview of German universities and research institutions.

Scholars across a range of fields believe that more can be done to ensure that education provides students with the necessary analytical skills for successful decision making. The Academy has brought together educators, curricula and textbook authors, social scientists, and experts on educational assessment and developmental psychology to define and clarify the nature of the problem, assess current programs in K–16 education in the United States, and recommend steps to strengthen curricula and other means of intervention in this area.



Principal Investigators

Dieter Simon