At Least in the East, Lecture Halls Aren't Overcrowded
LEIPZIG, GERMANY — STUDENTS in western Germany may think they have it rough, but conditions at universities in the formerly communist eastern Germany are in many cases worse.
In addition to all the problems also faced by universities in western Germany, higher education institutions in the east are still trying to overcome the adverse effects of 40-plus years of communist rule, which ended after German reunification in 1990.
At the University of Leipzig and other eastern German universities, buildings are in a dire state of disrepair.
For example, Leipzig's library was destroyed during World War II, and then only partially rebuilt. A full restoration now under way is not scheduled to be completed until the year 2000.
In general, a gloomy atmosphere pervades. ''Sometimes you can still catch a whiff of the old GDR,'' says Carsten Schreiber, a third-year history student, referring to life in the old East Germany, or German Democratic Republic.
The ''de-communization'' of university staffs has also been a challenge. Many professors - especially in law, economics, and history - were replaced because their teaching philosophies appeared too deeply rooted in communist doctrine.
Within several months after reunification, students experienced massive turnover in the professorial ranks, sowing confusion in the classroom. The tumultuous turnover prompted some education watchdogs to question the qualifications of new professors.
'MANY people got a chance to become a professor in eastern Germany who never would have gotten such an opportunity in an established system,'' says Karl-Heinz Hoffmann of the Scientific Council, an organization that coordinates science and research in Germany.
There may be drawbacks, but some students maintain there are some positive aspects to studying in the east. Overcrowding, a serious problem at universities in western Germany, for example, is not an issue here. Lectures at Leipzig University often only include 10 or 15 people.
''Even though the professors might not be the most famous, learning conditions, in terms of quantity, are much better here,'' Ms. Schreiber says.
A native of the western port city of Hannover, Schreiber is among the small but growing number of Westerners now heading east for higher education.
Most are attracted primarily because they can receive individual attention from professors.