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News vom 09.01.2015

Student fees in Germany – new publication provides overview in English

Implementation, modification and abolition of student fees – and a different development in each of the 16 federal states: It is hard to keep track of the current state of tuition fees for people living in Germany – but even more so for international students as well as international experts on higher education. Yet, student fees are a hot topic in Germany right now: Some politicians demand their re-implementation – some especially with regard to international students. A new synopsis published by the CHE (Centre of Higher Education) provides an overview of the development in the last decade and the status quo. It promotes an alternative model of tuition fees for the future.

Unlike hardly any other topic concerning higher education, student fees seem to have become a never-ending story in Germany. For the last years and even decades, there have always been modifications and changes. In 2007, students from seven of the 16 German federal states (“Länder”) were required to pay tuition fees. Since then, one federal state after another has abolished these general enrolment fees. Thus, 2014 goes down as the year in which student fees in Germany were ultimately done away with. Undergraduate students pay only a small enrolment or confirmation fee.

Article shows past and possible future of tuition fees in Germany.

Why did student fees fail in Germany? Are they as “dead as a dodo” or can new life be breathed into them? The article that is published in the „Journal of the European Higher Education Area” evaluates how the introduction of student fees in Germany was experienced. By outlining both the conceivable positive and negative effects, it analyses whether or not study fees in Germany proved their worth. In conclusion, different scenarios for the future are presented and assessed.

The authors Ulrich Müller and Melanie Rischke outline a promising model for student fees in the future: Inspired by the Australian model, they opt for deferred graduate contribution. Ulrich Müller, head of policy studies, states: “The graduate contribution model constitutes a possibility to generate additional revenue and sustainably improve study conditions in Germany without having a deterrent effect on prospective students and without burdening them with financial risk. This model works on the assumption that students are unable to afford tuition fees, but that graduates benefit greatly from their education from a financial perspective and are usually affluent enough to afford to contribute to the cost of their study. Yet, we must acknowledge that German universities need to be supported and tuition fees could be an important part of that.”

Some background information: The German situation is a rather unique one.

In Germany each of the 16 states is responsible for higher education. This leads to a rather complex system with federal state-wide regulations. Secondly, the German higher education is still dominated by publicly funded higher education institutions. Although private universities have become more and more popular among German students they are still the minority – and tuition fees are just a small share of the funding of German universities. These are some of the reasons why student fees in Germany are such a controversial issue and always seem to become a victim to the whims of election campaigns and overthrown by protest.

The article „As Dead as a Dodo? Student Fees in Germany“ can be found in the „Journal of the European Higher Education Area” (Raabe), issue 4 | 2014, p. 33-68.

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Britta Hoffmann-Kobert
Britta Hoffmann-Kobertmehr
Phone: +49 5241 9761-27
Fax: +49 5241 9761-40
Email: britta.hoffmann-kobert

Link to the publication: mehr

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