German universities to reintroduce tuition fees for non-EU students

From autumn next year, international students will pay €1,500 per semester as part of a bid to reduce Germany’s €48m higher education deficit

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The Independent Online

Students from outside the European Union will soon have to pay to attend universities in south-west Germany, where until now, courses have been free.

Tuition fees were scrapped in Baden-Württemberg state in 2011, and universities became free from cost in all German states by 2014.

But despite promising not to introduce general fees earlier this year, the Baden-Württemberg state government has announced the reintroduction of tuition fees to international students from autumn 2017.

The change comes as part of efforts to reduce debt in the country, with the higher education ministry admitting it can no longer afford to provide free education to all.

Once Britain leaves the EU, UK students taking up places in a number of German institutions, including the University of Stuttgart and the University of Heidelberg, will be required to pay fees of €1,500 (£1,256) per semester.

For a second degree, students will be asked to pay a reduced fee of €650 (£544) per semester.

It is believed this cost could be extended across the rest of Germany in the coming years.

A spokeswoman from the University of Konstanz told The Independent: “While the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Education and Research has to do its part in reducing costs, it also wants to avoid drastically damaging the reputation and growth of science and research at state universities along with their high student numbers.” 

She explained: “The coalition agreement between the ruling Grünen (Green) and CDU (Christian Democratic Union) parties in the state of Baden-Württemberg prohibits general tuition fees at universities.”

According to Germany’s higher education minister, the department must fill a funding gap of around €48m (£40.2m) next year. 

As part of the new legislation, international students who acquire their higher education entrance qualification in Germany (Bildungsinländer) will be exempt from the charges, along with those from Erasmus member states.

A further exception is made for students from non-member countries with permanent resident status in Europe. Refugees with a right to stay will also be exempt from paying tuition fees.

At present, Germany is one of a handful of European countries to offer free university education, along with Demark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

Under the Erasmus scheme, British students can apply to study at European universities for up to a year as part of their UK courses.

In October this year, the European Investment Fund signed a £30m deal with private loan company Future Finance to help fund the Erasmus+ scheme for Masters’ students until 2020.

Currently, the exchange programme for both undergraduate and postgraduate students relies on EU contributions, and funding for the scheme post-Brexit remains unclear.

The Erasmus scheme’s UK director, Ruth Sinclair-Jones, said following the referendum result: “We face a sad moment of uncertainty, after 30 years of this enrichment of so many lives”.

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