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Will Germany bring back the tuition fee for International Students?

tuition fee
The German state of Baden-Württemberg has reintroduced the tuition fee for international students starting from winter 2017.

There have been a few debates lately related to German universities reintroducing the tuition fee for non-EU students. In this article, we will lay out everything that you need to know about the German universities and their fee structure. We will also discuss the current state of affairs with respect to reintroducing the tuition fee in coming years.

Who needs to pay the Tuition fee?

In Germany, there are 562 universities with 2,950,000 students (2021/22). About 60% of the universities are financed by the government and are therefore state-funded. 30% of the institutions of higher education are private universities, and 10% are church-financed and state-accredited institutions (source: DAAD).

The vast majority of students are enrolled in state-run universities. Anyone studying at these universities pays zero or only a nominal amount of tuition fees. However, all 109 private universities in Germany charge tuition fees. Anyone looking to study at private universities may need to pay very high tuition fees.

The primary condition for any study program to be state funded is:

  1. The studies must take place for its entire duration in Germany, at the host/primary university (TU, HS or FH) where the student is enrolled in the first semester.
  2. This university is responsible for the visa application related documents and other things.

If your study program violates any one of the  above criteria, it is most likely that you will be paying a tuition fee.

What is a Semester fee?

The fact that higher education in Germany is free is only isn’t entirely true. The students of all the universities and all the courses still need to pay the semester fee (100-250 euros) which has nothing to do with the course fee. The semester fee is composed of fees for the student union and for the student administration (AstA). At many universities, the semester fee also includes semester ticket for local public transport.

By paying the semester fee, you will get access to canteens, sports facilities, union membership, and a student travel card. You will be enrolled in a new semester upon paying your semester fee. However, this is pretty much all the ‘tuition fee’ that you pay in a state-funded university.

How Germany scrapped the tuition fee?

The story of how German institutions got rid of the tuition fee is quite remarkable. The concept of tuition fees or “Kolleggelder” was first disposed of in 1960s. During this time, the students would have to pay the university professor directly in order to attend his lecture. But in later years university education is more standardized and students were asked to pay a fixed tuition fee per semester.

The reason why and how German universities decided to scrape the tuition fee is not a simple one. Nor is it expected to stay the same in the future.

The removal of tuition fee was first issued by Gerhard Schröder’s government of Social Democrats and Greens. Later in 2005, German constitutional court removed the ban with the argument that it would lessen the power of local governments. Soon afterward, seven universities took the leap and charged €1,000 a year, expecting that this would create a dynamic internal market. Universities with fee structure would rise in power and other universities would be forced to follow the suit. This move faced a fierce opposition by students all around the country.

The protests provided a springboard for the Social Democratic and Green parties, which began to get rid of tuition fees in states where they came into power. “We found that fees interfered with the principle of equal opportunities to a degree that was unacceptable to us,” said a political leader. By 2013, even Bavaria’s arch-conservative Christian Social Union party had made a U-turn on fees, criticizing universities for hoarding money rather than investing it in research or student support.

What is the news on reintroducing the tuition fee?

The south-western German state Baden-Württemberg. The state’s Science, Art and Research Minister Theresia Bauer has announced the reintroduction of tuition fees for international students to help its higher education institutions cover operational costs.

The south-western German state Baden-Württemberg. The state’s Science, Art and Research Minister Theresia Bauer has announced the reintroduction of tuition fees for international students to help its higher education institutions cover operational costs.

1,500 euro per semester.

starting from the 2017/18 autumn semester.

All universities in the state of Baden-Württemberg including,

  • University of Freiburg
  • University of Heidelberg
  • University of Hohenheim
  • University of Karlsruhe
  • University of Konstanz
  • University of Mannheim
  • University of Stuttgart
  • University of Tübingen
  • University of Ulm

No, the existing students who have already started their studies do not have to pay.

Yes, this new rule does not apply to

  1. International students who earned their higher education entrance qualification in Germany.
  2. International students, who are from Erasmus member states.
  3. Students from non-member countries with permanent resident status in Europe.
  4. Refugees who have the right to stay in Germany.

Unless this new rule is overturned by the student protests or other political developments, it is likely that other states also will be encouraged to reintroduce the student fee in coming years.

To conclude, it is quite evident that Germany has been on and off about the question of whether or not to collect the tuition fee from the international students in state-funded universities. For now, Baden-Württemberg has taken a new stand to ask the foreign students to pay for their studies. It is not sure if other states will embrace this new rule. The future of this dilemma will depend on several diplomatic factors and political developments. In any case, keep an eye on this and return to this post to see the latest updates.

Further reference: Stuttgarter-Zeitung.de

12 thoughts on “Will Germany bring back the tuition fee for International Students?”

  1. For anybody who is having unnecessary doubts or is still in denial that the tuition fee haven’t been raised, go to the website of the Universities themselves and if you are too lazy to do that too, I will just quote 2 here:
    1. University of Freiburg: http://www.studium.uni-freiburg.de/aktuelle-mitteilungen-en/studiengebuehren-international-en/
    2. Ministry of Science, Research and Art, Baden Württemberg: https://mwk.baden-wuerttemberg.de/de/hochschulen-studium/studienfinanzierung/gebuehren-fuer-internationale-studierende-und-zweitstudium/

      1. Hi i am a btech civil graduate with cgpa of 6.4 And short term course in GIS, Remote sensing with two years work experience in GIS domain. i found that there is a scholarship for sustainable studies from DAAD for developing contries, when I check the courses provided there is one course named photogrametry and geoinformatics from hft stuttgart. my question is, if i get the scholarship do i need to pay the tution fees because of change in rule? And what about my chances of getting the scholarship? Do u have any other suggestions for masters in GIS from germany?

  2. If other states start charging tutions fees in near future then international students who are already studying with no tuition fee will also be required to pay as a result of sudden policy change?

  3. When you say “International Students that are from Erasmus member states”, do you mean only Erasmus students or all students that are coming from those countries? For example I am from Turkey, which is a member of the Erasmus programme. Do I have to pay tuition if I were to start Ulm University on 2018 September?

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