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BLK regulation: a lie or an excuse?

While admitting that employment contract were not accessible to foreign PhD students, MPI directors and the MPG administration always claimed to be bound to a Bund-Länder-Kommission (BLK) regulation, forcing them to do so. For example:

  • At page 3 of his answer to the representatives of the students at the MPI for molecular genetics, Prof. Gruss (president of the MPG) states that:
    The Bund-Länder Commission sets the stipulation for the MPS regarding the funding possibilities available for foreign and German Ph.D candidates such as grants or Ph.D. contracts. We are obliged to abide by these stipulations and we have no say in the matter.
  • At page 2 of his answer to the spokesperson of the MPG-PhDnet, Mr. Gruss states that:
    Die unterschidliche Art der Förderung von ausländischen und inländischen Doktoranden durch Stipendium oder Doktorandenvertrag beruht auf gegenüber der MPG getroffenen Festlegungen durch die Bund--Länder-Kommission. Diese sind für uns verbindlich. Wir haben insoweit keinen Entscheidungsspielraum.
  • In a letter to an Italian PhD student, Prof. Lipowsky (Director of the MPI for Colloids and Interfaces in Golm) states that:
    Compensation for doctoral graduate students is regulated by the General Administration of the Max-Planck Society which as an organization funded by the Federal and State Governments follows strict guidelines for the distribution of funds as stipulated by the Federal-State Government Commission.
    In these guidelines, the compensation for doctoral graduate students, among other issues, is described. It is stated that foreign doctoral graduate students receive a grant which is not subject to income tax and insurance payments.

It is difficult to understand how an institution like the BLK, which can at most make recommendations, would be able to set a rule that violates the EC law. I could guess that the recommendation concerned giving employment contracts to German PhD students, without mentioning foreigners at all (perhaps because the number of foreign PhD candidates was not relevant yet at that time). The MPG might have decided to save money by regularly granting fellowships to foreign PhD candidates (due to the lack of social security benefits and to their being tax-free, the fellowships are three times cheaper for the Institutes than employment contracts). But this is only my guess.

We tried however to obtain a copy of this regulation. The MPG has never provided a copy of it, nor the details of its content nor any evidence of its existance.

The second meeting of the PhDnet (the network of PhD students in Max-Planck institutes, which I had founded in 2003), was held in Dresden in November 2003. The meeting was attended also by the president of the MPG, Mr. Gruss, and by Ms. Mellinghoff, of the central administration.
They stated (link to the movies to be inserted) that any existing exception concerning financial support for the PhD (i.e. employment contracts granted to foreigners and fellowship given to Germans) would have to be considered illegal from point of view of the MPG rules.

Ms. Mellinghoff agreed to provide a copy of the BLK regulation.
What follows below is the email exchange I had with her between November 2003 and January 2004.


From:Andrea Raccanelli
Date:Mon, 10 Nov 2003 10:39:06 +0100
Subject:after Dresden
To:Susanne Mellinghoff

Dear Mrs. Mellinghoff,
let me first of all thank you for your participation in the meeting in Dresden, although, due to a lack of time and -I have to admit- due to a non perfect organization, we could not have with you the exchange that would have been desirable.
As we agreed in Dresden, I would very much appreciate if you could send me a copy of the BLK regulation concerning contracts for PhD students, possibly by means of a fax addressed to my attention at 0228 737869.
Should you find it useful, I am reachable in my office at 0228 732690.
I thank you once more for your politeness and your kind availability.
Best Regards,
Andrea Raccanelli

From:Susanne Mellinghoff
Date:Thu, 13 Nov 2003 12:01:29 +0100
Subject:Re: after Dresden
To:Andrea Raccanelli

Dear Mr. Raccanelli,
unfortunately I have not yet send you the promised excerpts from the BLK resolutions pertaining to funding for doctoral students because the person responsible is sick.
Thank you for your patience.
Best wishes
Susanne Mellinghoff

From:Andrea Raccanelli
Date:Fri, 28 Nov 2003 16:23:34 +0100
Subject:Re: after Dresden
To:Susanne Mellinghoff

Dear Mrs. Mellinghoff,
I realize only now that our last exchange happened two weeks ago. I hope the person responsible for the archive has fully recovered from his/her sickness. May I hope to receive the copy of the BLK resolution concerning funding for doctoral students within the next week? Just in case, here's again my fax number: 0228 733620. I thank you in advance and I wish you a nice weekend.
Andrea Raccanelli

From:Susanne Mellinghoff
Date:Wed, 10 Dec 2003 12:16:56 +0100
Subject:BLK resolutions
To:Andrea Raccanelli

Dear Mr. Raccanelli,
Finding the BLK resolutions is proving to be very difficult. In the meantime we have traced the documents back to 1974. Since the resolutions are not recorded in individual protocols but rather together with others, we have to go through all the documents one at a time, which is very time consuming. On top of this, at the start of 2004 the "w-salary" is going to be introduced at the MPS, and at the moment all work in conjunction with this has top priority. For this reason I have to ask you to be patient. If there is a compelling reason as to why you absolutely have to have the resolutions, please let me know. Otherwise I hope to be able to give you final word before Christmas.
Today and tomorrow I am in meetings all the day and will therefore not be available to take phone calls.
Best regards
Susanne Mellinghoff

From:Andrea Raccanelli
Date:Wed, 21 Jan 2004 12:37:28 +0100
Subject:Re: BLK resolutions
To:Susanne Mellinghoff

Dear Mrs. Mellinghoff,

There's one thing I did not quite understand of your last e-mail of Dec. 10th. Do you mean that the BLK resolution was released *before* 1974? In that case I am sure that more recent regulations became active after that (e.g. the European Contract).

I really appreciate your effort and availability. I also understand what you told us in Dresden, i.e. that the MPG is not willing to take any action on the issue of discrimination of foreign students. For these reason, if I am allowed to be frank, I would like to ask you a straight question: are we going to get a copy of this BLK resolution from MPG? I start having doubts that it even exists, or at least that it states what we have been told it does.
I would be very much grateful if you could answer with the same frankness, as that might save us both some time.

Best regards,

Andrea Raccanelli

From:Susanne Mellinghoff
Date:Wed, 21 Jan 2004 16:47:39 +0100
Subject:Re: BLK resolutions
To:Andrea Raccanelli

Dear Mr. Raccanelli,
in light of the legal proceedings I cannot provide you with any more information or documents.
Thank you for your understanding.
Best regards
Susanne Mellinghoff