Receiving backlogs for students at Canadian colleges

Lange, Bastian: The Canadian company `` University '': alternatives for our crisis-ridden university system? In: maple leaves. Marburg contributions to Canada research. 11. Marburg 1998. (Writings of the University Library of Marburg; 84)
http://archiv.ub.uni-marburg.de/sum/84/sum84-7.html




Bastian Lange

The Canadian company `` University '': alternatives for our crisis-ridden university system?


The unmistakable charm of the idyllic university town of Marburg in Central Hesse welcomes me after my return from Canada. He carefully stretches out his feelers to me while I look back and, through the distant gaze turned to the past months, reveals what I have just got to know and what I know in the immediate vicinity and a new perspective. In retrospect, the continent of university paradises, longing stops or even the end of student dreams and careers, which is still praised and promising for many, can be compared to the old and again emerging familiar.

It all started with leaving the familiar. The cozy and somewhat sleepy picturesque provincial idyll of Marburg is being exchanged for Edmonton for a semester as part of an exchange program between the Philipps University of Marburg and the University of Alberta [Edmonton]. Mysterious coincidences, sheer curiosity about the country and the university [scientific landscape], flat biography production, joy in experiment and a pinch of luck were the ingredients that gave me wings after a close examination of myself and the aptitude tests necessary for such a project on a sultry summer day entrusted to Air Canada. Aim? Edmonton!

Edmonton? In the province of Alberta? Canada! When looking for my destination, Calgary helps geographically: the 1992 Winter Olympics host is also in the province of Alberta. The media attention achieved by the world public gave the otherwise little noticed province an important boost in the international concert. Located on the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the city is the westernmost point of the vast and relatively unspectacular, endless inner-Canadian plain. After all, a 20-minute flight catapults the traveler to the very edge of the loose and thin settlement slurry of Edmonton's urban expansion policy, which can be seen at first glance through the window hatch of the narrow and small airplane. The airport is in the midst of endless farmlands. Apart from an oversized traffic artery, there is little or nothing to discover of the city. [1]

Although since the 1980s more prosperous than Calgary, also the provincial capital of Alberta, sporting more successful through the glory days of Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier with the Edmonton Oilers, Edmonton has not yet completely fallen victim to the postmodern mirror-glass-marble playfulness in urban planning . The fast and fixed idea of ​​an airport with an international scale also stems from the economic boom of the 80s. This should be on the future settlement periphery of the then [when?] Expanded city. The old airport was not a subject of debate due to its city-center location for further expansion. The new airport was planned and built, as was the long route to the actual urban area of ​​Edmonton. The distance between the airport, which was built in the 1980s, and the inner city area is an impressive 45 km. According to the planning, companies, industry, service providers and housing options should settle on this newly created traffic axis. Halfway through the drive to the Edmonton metropolitan area, you can see the so-called White Elephant from the 6-lane freeway - a 15-storey, expansive, massive, white residential complex: it is another remarkable cipher of failed urban development planning and has been with it since its existence to fight immense rental problems. Who likes to live between the airport and the beginning of a broad band of loose collection of service providers, various hardware stores, car service, drive-in and repair chains?

The journey leads directly to the downtown skyline looming on the horizon, past the first residential areas hermetically separated from other business-oriented areas. In this regard, Edmonton is an exemplary testimony to the urban planning policy of the 1950s and 1960s. The New York city planner C. Perry was in charge of the basic idea that dominated almost all North American metropolitan areas: especially the social and hygienic conditions that were rampant in New York in the 1920s and 30s, but also in numerous other booming cities, prompted C. Perry to adopt a rigorous approach functional separation. This resulted in pure residential areas with a centrally located minimum supply of utilities for daily needs. In addition, at a safe distance, pure business or industrial areas, recently called parks, were created. Reflecting, candle-like skyscrapers appear in front of me, in the middle of the city that will accommodate me for the next time. [2]

Curious desire, perhaps to characterize more disempathically with studying, leads me to the University of Alberta, Edmonton as part of an exchange program. [3] My goal, the University of Alberta, Edmonton, is still hidden from the city, and I am anxiously waiting for the things to come. It can hardly be denied that these first impressions have a strange effect on me and generate resistance. In the same breath, the Hessian provincial idyll, which is able to fulfill all the dreams of a student life, suddenly appears in new splendor. Defense and desire go hand in hand in these moments.

In retrospect, what could be better than presenting a few structural comparisons between two university systems instead of delving into familiar phrases of enthusiasm, praise and thanksgiving. The direct experience in both systems as well as my previous one and a half year work as a student advisor at the ZAS [Central Office for Study Orientation and Advice] are predestined for this. In addition, the genre of the classic final report with the usual hidden 'delicacies' is likely to be well known and tried out in the end, so that I would like to do without it. Travel forms, so many people who return home subsume and are thus able to arouse envy of the experience and the Experienced in the distance. What remains are excursions on display, navel gazing, transfigured through the glasses of one's own origin. I think it would be more interesting to make a little trip to the realms of the educational institutions. [4]

"... it makes sense!" The welcome sign of the University of Alberta, located at the central entrance area on the huge university campus, indicates the route. A `` sensory production site '' awaits me. Superficial and external points of connection quickly lead to the assumption that a management consultancy was at work; the logo of the university and the layout that can be found everywhere, as well as catchy and catchy slogans are uniformly emblazoned and visible to everyone at the central points of the university campus. The corporate identity should create a sense of community, everyone should work towards clear goals, let their performance be at the service of a larger whole. The university shows itself to be a service provider and company with the goal of constant and better output increase. Be it the ambitious expectations of the dean when he welcomes the newcomers [especially the graduate students] or the daily donation bar on campus, which shows how many donations are still missing in the university budget compared to the planned, since calculated, donations: Competitive orientation, motivation and output dominate everywhere increase. The hectic hustle and bustle of almost 30,000 enrolled students, who seem to move purposefully on invisible rails, complete the picture of a university company. Maximizing performance, increasing efficiency and the Darwinian struggle for a place in the sun were impressions in the first few days that attracted my attention on campus and in the lecture halls with this clarity and obscenity.

The question of whether this observation can also be found more profoundly in everyday university life and whether a fundamentally different structure of the North American university compared to the German university ensures the safeguarding of the intellectual level [this once postulated as a basic assumption] can only be approached cautiously. Have the rigorous changes in the direction of entrepreneurship at almost all North American universities in recent years also led to significant changes? What do they look like? Can they be assessed as a success and can they stand as a model for an [allegedly] pending structural reform of the German universities in this country? The aim is not to rashly formulate a final judgment, but rather to contribute some experience to a broader discussion about university reform.

This discussion draws its basic ideas mainly from the North American university system and aims to adopt some of these ideas. The division of studies into two parts, tuition fees and an efficiency and market orientation are just a few, albeit central, cornerstones of the reform ideas discussed in this country.

The clear separation into an undergraduate program that provides basic knowledge and a professionally qualifying undergraduate program [degree: B.Sc./BA] and a graduate program [degree: Master / Ph.D This system represents. An undergraduate therefore goes to school, a graduate seeks a master's degree or a doctorate. The linguistic differentiation brings with it a familiar one in the federal German educational landscape. Undergraduate courses are heavily schooled, a permanent performance control alternates with a clearly defined `` output '' of papers, presentations and exams. The mind rages in the ability to end up getting the highest possible score in all courses and exams.

After four years, the hunt for points and good grades has come to an unspectacular end. A summary line throws out a final note. The analogy to school [Hauptschule, Realschule or Gymnasium] is obvious. The subsequent graduate program offers the opportunity to write a thesis similar to a master’s / diploma or to write a doctoral thesis. Graduate programs are research-related, because of the good final grades required from the undergraduate program, they are not available to everyone and are a breeding ground for young academics.

Due to the situation within the subject area, I was able to complete undergraduate courses and graduate courses on the one hand. It was amazing how closely and clearly defined the former stood out from the open and free latter. Even with a tendency to be familiar with the latter, the permanent change is a difficult task. In the undergraduate courses, reproductions are made, clear reading specifications, clearly defined presentation topics and exams that follow one another in quick succession left no time to breathe deeply. In my graduate course, I should be just about to draft my own Masters topic. This 'program' is similar to the well-known main course at the German university.

The certainly simplified and roughly outlined situation of North American universities is reminiscent of the most recent advances and proposals for the modification of German universities. One attests to them a lack of international competitiveness, a lack of flexibility, a lack of practical and professional orientation and backlogs in research and teaching. Not to mention the allocation and distribution of competencies between the university, state and federal government with regard to funding, organizational structure, and the selection of students and teaching staff. In short, universities in this country seem to be in crisis.
The underlying question is: Can the German university system continue to afford to train people academically to this extent and with the existing uniformity due to the prevailing overall social, labor market and educational policy situation? To put it another way: What is 'education' worth to this country, and on which ec points / guiding principles do you orientate yourself?

Recently discussed proposals aim to introduce basic knowledge-imparting and primarily job-qualifying B.Sc./B.A.-like [partial] courses. These have their roots in the North American university model. However, it is often overlooked that North American companies and companies have an extensive training program ready for their new B.Sc./B.A. protégés, which is not [yet] guaranteed in this form in this country. The acceptance of this qualification on the German labor market is just as unlikely, as there is usually no familiarity with the EU labor market, which has been widely praised over and over again.

In my opinion, the comparison reveals a glorified view of German educational hopes on the North American model. The shorter school time in Canada compared to the German Abitur is complemented by the non-existent claim of the North American high school to release its protégés into post-school life simultaneously with knowledge of literature, chemistry and music as well as knowledge of some foreign languages. The first semesters at a North American university take over the function of the last few years at high school.

Another point in the search for differences in the education system can be explained by Canada's most recent economic successes [see e.g. DIE ZEIT No. 45, 1.11.1996, p. 58]. On the one hand, these are characterized by a successful reduction in ancillary wage costs, social cuts and the dismantling of a complex social system. The necessary relief for companies to settle down (e.g. very low trade tax and the provision of the infrastructure) also contributed to the fact that favorable framework conditions resulted in the creation of jobs. Unemployment has been falling since Prime Minister J. Chrétien's term in office, although it is still at a very high level. In terms of educational policy, the labor-intensive pragmatism typical of the country and the university's flexibility with regard to the focus on rapid developments on the labor market [e.g. Multimedia area] an interesting and successful combination to be mentioned in the same breath. [5] The associated undogmatic attitude towards university education and the above-mentioned practical and professional orientation often make it easier to react flexibly to changes.

Whether the implementation of the above-mentioned North American educational modules is to be welcomed in this country or is only able to knock on the university system must be considered on a case-by-case basis. It is discussed that reform approaches that require flexibility are opposed to preserving structures. Everyone is free to complain or to be happy that the institutional implementation of a new, smoother coat of arms for the Philipps University, by the former Vice President Prof. Dr. I. Langer, threatened to be ground up in the university mills of a centuries-old traditional structure. Not to mention further steps to represent a German university in the style of a company to the outside world with a clear corporate identity. However, changes have long been pulling through the back door in the [inter alia. financial] everyday student life at the Marburg Philipps University. Selective course fees, school-based basic courses and a generally harder wind characterize courses and department-internal money distributions.

The reference to North American tuition fees, the North American division of university education and the uncritical adoption of teaching and seminar principles, which are often demanded by educational policy in the debate about structural changes, unnecessarily prematurely dismantle German university quality in favor of lean education rooted in industry. Nowadays, highly explosive and often desirable professional qualifications are no longer promoted. The social and emotional competence required everywhere, combined with communication skills, embedded in a `` patchwok biography, '' are, in my opinion, difficult to achieve in a university system that is purely aimed at maximizing performance. The ability to work in a team as a personal characteristic is better developed in an education system that leaves students with greater scope for decision-making and does not force them into an often even more difficult financial situation through additional financial burdens, i.e. tuition fees.It also gives them greater [decision-making] competencies than is possible in a system in which all those involved are concerned with their own well-being, taking their elbows into account and with the help of them.

Braced in the busy everyday university life in Edmonton, a 14-person seminar group [GEOG 389, Urban Planning], in which I participated, was unable to do a 3-hour excursion due to individual evening jobs for numerous seminar participants, various tutoring sessions and other university obligations to a nearby part of town during the week. Not to mention the grueling appointment of my 3-person working group, which over 6 weeks turned out to be a slow and complicated process, as it was untrained.

My experiences puzzled me because I had taken this freedom from the beginning of my studies. A broad educational mandate with humanistic roots, individual study opportunities and decision-making competencies from the start does not only contribute to maximizing performance. It significantly promotes covert professional qualifications. In addition, these are cornerstones of a broad education system [previously] supported by society.

The features outlined here are ignored rather than emphasized in the debate. No wonder they no longer seem up-to-date. The associated qualities are not taken into account despite their expectations on the labor market. In the last few years in particular, voices have been raised that emphasize the above-mentioned qualities and want to revive them by organizing seminars and curricula accordingly.

The now common [and annoying] recall to German university founding fathers [v. Humboldt, Schleiermacher, Kant, Hegel] I spare myself, they all too easily cement university traditions. Nevertheless, it should be remembered that these repeatedly raised the question and possibility of changing and transforming the institution of the `` university ''.
Between 1802 and 1816, on the occasion of the founding of the Berlin University, Fichte and Schleiermacher held a discussion about what it should look like. The first provided a 'deduced plan for a ... higher educational institution' with strict regulations and access for all gifted students to the course. Schleiermacher, on the other hand, advocated a 'pronounced liberal concept, according to which academic individuality needs academic freedom in order to develop, including the The wheat is separated from the chaff ". [6]

Even then, the question was who was allowed to enjoy university education and what the criteria for admission and academic orientation were based on. In short: how free is the university and how `` equal '' are those in front of it who want to enter it? In other words: is Education still accessible to everyone, regardless of individual financial possibilities and personal interests?

The debate that began almost 200 years ago seems to be repeating itself today. So it is not surprising that in 1997 D. Müller-Böling in the ZEIT (No. 9, 02.21.1997, p. 42) called for "more freedom for the university". The required gain in autonomy for universities clearly has North American characteristics. Bachelor- Courses of study [BA / B.Sc.] Seem necessary and could become sensible alternatives with a growing further education sector, said Müller-Böling in Die ZEIT. The North American university landscape is characterized in some points by the autonomy and liberality demanded by Müller-Böling.

The relation of the University of Alberta [Edmonton] to a complex [economic] company is an example of this development and brings, among other things, concrete improvements and advantages for students. According to the understanding of modern companies, the "workforce" is guaranteed a good service. An enormous number of multimedia devices [e-mail, Internet, hardware and software], continuous independent evaluation of the teaching staff on behalf of the dean of the individual departments and a close and friendly Contact between lecturers and students contributes to an extremely satisfied study attitude. This is likely to be reflected in the study achievements, which in turn earn the university points in a national and international comparison. Studying is fun, in my experience, and those who invest a lot get a lot in return.

In conversations with Canadian students, I often encountered the coupling of tuition fees, necessary long summer jobs and the considerable financial burden that this entails. A 4-month summer job to finance the high semester fees [approx. 3000-4000 Kan. Dollars] is considered normal and taken for granted. Sometimes the job in addition to the extremely time-consuming and labor-intensive study. Although many students receive state subsidies, the high tuition fees and the cost of books [in some cases 500-700 Can. Dollars per semester!] In addition to the usual cost of living make it necessary to work in the summer from May to August.

On the other hand, it would be interesting to find out what happens to those who, for whatever reason, are thrown out of the system because they cannot afford the tuition fees towards the end of their training or cannot bear the constant stress of performance monitoring and fail because of it. The rising numbers of poverty and extreme social problems in Canada should confirm the assumption that there is a possible connection.

In my opinion, the difficulty lies in the fact that the competitive structure that goes hand in hand with the increase in autonomy also has an impact on university admission modalities. In my opinion, it is important to separate intellectual abilities from financial possibilities. Canada is two-pronged in this regard, a corresponding high school degree and tuition fees [the University of Alberta, Edmonton, is financially `` affordable '' compared to others] are hurdles before the start of studies and each subsequent semester. It follows logically from this that the autonomous orientation of the university also proceeds more freely in the selection of students. The university company therefore selects future students according to its own criteria. As a result, an extremely tough, but dialectical, selection process is carried out. The dialectic consists in the fact that not certain [possibly Socially and financially disadvantaged] prospective students are primarily denied access to the university, rather than [possibly] competing universities starting to recruit students. The aim is to achieve greater compatibility between the content-related wishes of the students and the subject-specific orientation of the university. If these meet, according to the theoretical, but also already tested ideas, a better and desired performance (/ performance increase) is achieved. Theoretically, the universities' claim to equality would quickly dissolve and encounter the already non-homogeneous future student population. One goal would be that it must be clear before the beginning of the course what training and job-related ideas the new student has. On the other hand, the university should try to find out whether the subject-specific orientation of the subjects offered can be linked to the interests of the new student.

The newly founded Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, translated somewhat inappropriately as geosciences, results from a merger of the fields of geology and geography. Autonomous scope for decision-making enables a focus on certain selected study and research priorities. This is reflected in the range of courses, the employment of new professors [no women!] And, last but not least, the selection of professors Graduate students low. As a major geography and ethnology student in Marburg, on the other hand, I was confronted with very special topics. On the one hand, this enabled a professional specialization, on the other hand, the options for me were limited.


What remains?

While happy German ski holiday returnees from the Rocky Mountains prepare me for my return to Germany at the airport, the Air Canada plane makes its way through the freezing cold over the icy runway of the airport, I look back. Although I am still completely worried about the last exams, the uncertain final results of the courses and the question of where the new contacts with fellow students will remain, I am floating back and forth between the two university systems in the waiting room. As appealing as the North American is, there remains a small but bitter aftertaste. This has its origin less in the experienced, very time-consuming and labor-intensive study, but rather in the envious statement that it is difficult to deny success. The alternative for our university system seems to be a steadily advancing, `` leaner '' maximization of efficiency, performance and improvement. Regardless of the associated loss of quality of education, it seems to me that the university alternative, which is widely praised in many places, is worth a review. Are there ways of combining the positive elements of both systems? Or is there no way around the entrepreneurial orientation of the once free and independent declared institution? Done from the last few weeks at the University of Alberta, I watch the tanned skiers and at that moment I only have a tired smile on my face.

Fortunately, because the aircraft is overcrowded, I get a seat in first class and am provided with the best meals. I sum up and state that many essential features of the University of Alberta [Edmonton] are characteristic of North American universities, of future models in Germany and, in general, a trend towards an entrepreneurial orientation of education. Technical specialization, performance maximization, improvement of university service, rapid modernization [multimedia area], but also the personal and friendly relationship to the staff and teaching staff [incidentally: who wants to do poorly in an evaluation?] Are just a few cornerstones of a university concept that We are discussing in the guise of structural reform and change proposals from the universities.

As a student of the (allegedly) reform-necessary system and as an exchange student in the system of tomorrow, I have to say: Why, blinded by the alleged success of the North American university system, hastily throw known and existing qualities overboard and hastily succumb to the illusion by copying one to lease the success of another system? Specific technical specialization [on what and for whom?] vs. broad and general, but still qualifying training, blinker-oriented performance maximization [who determines what 'performance' is? Society or some elites? (from the business world?)], university, among other things, as a general educational institution vs. unreflective management school, these are just a few thoughts that I, as an observer, consider worth considering because of my experience in and participation in both university systems.

I enjoy the red wine and soon I don't know whether I opened with a 94 Château Grand Picard or the 95 Château Grinou. It doesn t matter, it s red wine, anyway the steward replies laconically to my confused look. At that moment I don't care and so the wines will probably mix on the flight home.

Bastian Lange, Uferstrasse 7, 35037 Marburg
e-mail: [email protected]

[1] At this point we would like to express our special thanks to Mr. W. Fieguth, the retired geography lecturer, who was a great help in the first few days, was helpful with the first steps in the city, gave important tips and was a contact person during my time was an important pillar in Edmonton.

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[2] On the one hand, I obtained the information relevant for this section from the event by Dr. Pat Bayne on urban planning and, on the other hand, Prof. John Hodgson's event on geographic information systems at the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

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[3] The exchange program was supported by the International Office of the Philipps University of Marburg and the University of Alberta in Edmonton. At this point we would like to express our thanks to the International Office. I would also like to thank my predecessors in Edmonton, who gave me the important tips and decisive hints for orientation at the university and in the city.

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[4] A travel grant from the Marburger Universitätsbund e.V. turned out to be a great relief when it came to financing travel expenses. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the funds made available.

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[5] A GIS course [Geographical Information Systems], a software package that can deal with demographic, economic and physical-geographic issues and ultimately map them out, enjoyed great popularity. Software vendors like to boast that B. Clinton won his elections not least because of the ability of these programs [better the programmers and editors]. The new Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences reacted quickly to this development and offered courses with the best hardware and software. I took one of these courses.

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[6] Müller, Ernst (1990): Occasional thoughts on universities by Engel, Erhard, Wolf, Fichte, Schleiermacher, Savigny, v. Humboldt and Hegel. Reclam Leipzig.
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