Thomas Adam. Stipendienstiftungen und der Zugang zu hoeherer Bildung in Deutschland von 1800 bis 1960. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2008. 263 pp. EUR 46.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-3-515-09187-9.
Reviewed by Tracey J. Kinney
Published on H-German (March, 2010)
Commissioned by Benita Blessing
For and Against the Status Quo: University Endowments in the 19th and 20th Centuries
In North America, the debate over publicly funded higher education and the proportion of educational costs to be borne by the student is never far from the forefront of public discourse. Thomas Adam's recent monograph Stipendienstiftungen und der Zugang zu höherer Bildung in Deutschland von 1800 bis 1960 returns us to a time in German history when the cost of education fell primarily upon the student, thereby necessitating a system of endowments and other forms of aid to facilitate the completion of a degree. The stated goal of the author is to provide a comprehensive overview of the development of endowments at a number of German universities between 1800 and the early 1950s. As such, the focus remains firmly on endowed scholarships for undergraduate study, rather than travel stipends, academic awards, or any form of post-graduate support. Adam's point of reference is clearly the American university system in which, he notes, some 73 percent of all undergraduate students receive scholarships or stipends of some kind to cover some or all of the costs of education. The author also makes the assertion, which some may challenge, that high-quality education, such as that offered by the Ivy League universities, in the United States is typically identified with high tuition fees and the concomitant necessity of offsetting scholarships.
The ambitious scope of the monograph is made possible by exhaustive archival work. Adam consulted no less than twelve major university archives, as well as a number of regional and federal repositories. The book is meticulously documented and provides numerous explanatory notes and statistical tables. Four indexes--tables, places, names, and general terms--facilitate cross-referencing; the bibliography of primary and secondary sources is admirably detailed. There is also a useful literature review in the first chapter that demonstrates Adam's point, that this era of endowed scholarships has been generally ignored by scholars of educational history.
Taken overall, the book provides a thorough examination of donors and the endowments they created; the administration of those endowments at a number of institutions; the question of "need" and "merit"; the social profile of applicants and recipients (via case studies of the Universities of Leipzig, Rostock, and Freiburg); the role of endowments in both sustaining and challenging the status quo; and the role of endowments in relation to the introduction of higher education for women. Adam asserts that the nineteenth century saw endowments assume a new function, that of consolidating the social status of the donor. His study argues that, while a large percentage of donors were male, a substantial percentage of endowments were created by women. Male or female, the largest number of endowments came from the strata of the Bildungsbürgertum. Not all donors were German or lived in Germany; however, foreign donors often traced a strong connection to the country. Cities and municipalities could also be donors and the state governments did involve themselves in the promotion of education via the creation of endowed scholarships. For the donors the benefits were substantial: plaques emblazoned with their names appeared throughout the university, and some donors' contributions merited busts and statues to adorn gardens and building entrances; some professorial chairs carried the name of the donor, as did buildings and laboratories; other donors were awarded honorary degrees for their philanthropy. Thus, in many ways the donors purchased recognition through their endowments.
Adam also draws the reader's attention to the impact of the First World War on German universities and on the endowment system. Despite efforts to ensure absolute security of the funds, the government soon persuaded universities to invest their lucrative endowment funds in the war effort. This move thereby exposed the funds to the devastating impact of postwar inflation. Although, as Adam notes, this arrangement did not destroy the funds entirely, it certainly led to a reduced availability of stipends during the Weimar era. Other funds survived the war, only to be rendered worthless by the territorial changes created by the Treaty of Versailles, as was the case with eight endowments secured by debentures from West Prussia and Upper Silesia.
Turning to the National Socialist era, Adam provides a brief look at Nazi policy towards Jewish endowments, as well as an examination of the new student of the Nazi era. Now drawn more frequently from the working class or lower middle class, the student in the National Socialist era required greater levels of financial support. At the same time, political engagement--in particular, membership in the Nazi Party, the Hitler Youth, and the Sturmabteilung--played a much greater role in the awarding of scholarships to acceptable candidates.
The author raises a number of important issues in chapter 5, which examines the role of endowments in shaping the social structure. Since endowments necessarily represented the ideology and vision of their donor, they could be seen either to support the status quo (as was the case with endowments targeted specifically at the nobility), or to challenge it (in the case of endowments created to further the educational opportunities of women and of Jewish students, and those which aimed to bring Catholic students into Protestant universities). When the goals of the donor did not align with the goals of the institution, the potential for conflict developed. On occasion, this tension led to rejected donations, or lengthy negotiations with the donor regarding the nature of the endowment. In other cases, timing proved fortuitous. This situation was clearly the case with the bequest of Katharina Eleonore Wallot to the University of Heidelberg, which created scholarships for women in 1903, just three years after women were finally admitted to the university. Adam concludes that, even in the relatively illiberal period of the Kaiserreich, endowments carried the potential to act as agents of social change. He acknowledges, however, that such donations were also a major contributor to the reproduction of elite groups, just as they were in the United States, where donors worked tirelessly to promote a white, Christian elite.
The monograph provides a wealth of statistical information; nonetheless, certain information was not available to the author. As an example, Adam's analysis of the socioeconomic status of donors does show that, in raw numbers and as a percentage of donors whose status was identified, members of the Bildungsbürgertum provided the greatest number of privately funded endowments (187 to 141 funded by the nobility, higher civil servants, or clerical figures). However, in 112 out of 524 cases--over 21 percent--no information was available on social class. Thus the conclusion here, that the largest number of donors were members of the educated middle class, must necessarily remain tentative in the absence of further socioeconomic information.
Despite its relatively short length, Adam's monograph substantially achieves its goal: it provides a comprehensive introduction to a largely forgotten issue in the history of German universities. At times, however, the broad scope of the work means that key issues, such as the transformation of endowments during the National Socialist era and the fate of Jewish endowments, receive only passing attention. Similarly, although Adam draws repeated attention to the impact of the inflation era on university endowments during the Weimar period, the issue appears only briefly throughout the monograph. A separate chapter pulling together all of the data on the Weimar period (similar to the chapter on women and endowments) would have been helpful. Still, the book provides a clear and concise overview of many of the key issues related to university endowments between 1800 and the early 1950s. The possibility of a return to student-funded education in Germany makes this an increasingly timely and important topic.
. The universities covered in this study are Berlin, Bonn, Breslau, Erlangen, Freiburg, Göttingen, Greifswald, Halle-Wittenberg, Heidelberg, Jena, Kiel, Königsberg, Leipzig, Marburg, Münster, Munich, Rostock, Straßburg, Tübingen, and Würzburg.
. An earlier column indicates that 525 privately funded endowments were created between 1800 and 1946. The statistical data on socioeconomic class totals 524 endowments.
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: https://networks.h-net.org/h-german.
Tracey J. Kinney. Review of Adam, Thomas, Stipendienstiftungen und der Zugang zu hoeherer Bildung in Deutschland von 1800 bis 1960.
H-German, H-Net Reviews.
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