Bavaria considers introducing tuition fees for non-EU students
Bavaria considers introducing tuition fees for international students
The southern state is home to some of the best universities in the country, but international students may be put off from studying there in future after the governing Christian Social Union party drafted plans to allow universities to charge tuition fees to students coming from outside the European Union.
The Higher Education Innovation Act was originally drafted in 2021, before being shelved for several months. Now, however, a second draft of the law has been put to the state parliament and is expected to pass before the politicians take their summer recess in August.
It contains a crucial paragraph on the topic of charging fees: “For activities financed by the state (in particular the education of German and EU students and their equivalents), the higher education institutions may not exercise this right,” it reads. “However, this opens up the possibility of charging fees to non-EU foreigners, among others.”
Do German universities charge tuition fees?
Each federal state in Germany is free to set its own fees for university, but generally speaking all of them offer free tuition to both German and non-German students, including those from outside the EU, for both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.
The main exception to this is Baden-Württemberg, which since 2017 has been charging fees of 1.500 euros per semester to international students. In Saxony, universities are also free to charge tuition fees to non-EU students, but few have chosen to do so, out of fear it might put people off from applying - at a time when skilled worker shortages have transformed international students into a bright resource for the future.
Indeed, according to a study by the Alliance Against Tuition Fees (ABS), between 2016 and 2021 the number of foreign students in Baden-Württemberg fell by more than 36 percent, just as figures were rising in other German states. The results meant that North Rhine-Westphalia, which had previously been considering a similar move, U-turned.
Students argue tuition fees will widen inequalities
The plans in Bavaria have provoked an uproar among students, who argue that such a move would exacerbate pre-existing inequalities. “Tuition fees are a social hurdle to university access; they are poison for equal opportunities,” said Matthias Anbuhl, Secretary General of the German Student Support Association. “There is broad consensus on this in society and amongst politicians.”
Anbuhl added that tuition fees were originally abolished by the state parliament in 2013 after a vote on the subject found broad support among Bavarians. “It is therefore all the more incomprehensible that the Bavarian state government now wants to resort to this instrument for the group of international students from non-EU countries,” he said.
Vanessa Gombisch of the Federal Association of Foreign Students accused Bavaria of “doing a disservice to educational justice," while Daryoush Danaii of the Free Association of Student Unions said the move would create a “two-class system in the lecture theatre.”