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Tuition Fees Reintroduced at Some German Universities

By Sabrina Collier

Updated December 14, 2016 Updated December 14, 2016

Germany has become widely known for its free university education – one factor amongst several in its rapid rise in popularity as a study destination in recent years. However, the south-west state of Baden-Württemberg has this week announced plans to reintroduce tuition fees for international students from outside the European Union (EU), starting from autumn 2017.

What tuition fees will be charged?

From the start of the 2017/18 academic year, non-EU students will be required to pay €1,500 (~US$1,600) per semester – totalling €3,000 (~US$3,200) per year. Students gaining a second degree will pay a reduced fee of €650 (~US$700) per semester. Although education at German universities in Baden-Württemberg will no longer be free, it’s worth noting that these tuition fees are still significantly lower than in many other parts of the world.

Some international students will be exempt from the reintroduction of tuition fees. Exemptions apply to:

  • Refugees with a right to stay in Germany.
  • International students who earned their higher education entrance qualification ‘Bildungsinländer’ in Germany.
  • International students from Erasmus member states, including non-EU countries such as Iceland and Turkey.
  • Students from non-member countries with permanent resident status in Europe.
  • Existing non-EU students already undertaking degrees at the affected universities.

Which German universities are affected?

The state of Baden-Württemberg is home to major German cities such as Stuttgart, Karlsruhe and Heidelberg. German universities affected by the changes to tuition fees include:

Why have fees been reintroduced?

The state of Baden-Württemberg actually scrapped tuition fees in 2011, three years before Lower Saxony became the final German state to abolish them in 2014, and had earlier this year promised not to reintroduce general fees. However, the decision to reintroduce tuition fees has now been made in order to help universities cover operational costs – the country currently has a €48m (~US$51m) higher education funding gap. In short, the higher education ministry can no longer afford to provide free education for all students.

The ministry is reportedly keen to get the funding situation under control, while at the same time avoiding negative repercussions for German universities. 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.” 

Will other German universities charge fees?

Unless the proposed change in tuition fee policy is overturned by student protests or other political developments, it seems feasible that other German states will also reintroduce fees in the coming years, again in a bid to reduce the higher education funding deficit.

The reintroduction of tuition fees may be a concern for some students, including UK students affected by the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. However, the UK is unlikely to complete the process of leaving the EU until around March 2019; UK students can still benefit from free or low tuition in many EU countries during this time. It’s not yet clear whether the UK will remain a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) and/or the Erasmus scheme.

There is also the possibility of more scholarship opportunities becoming available to help non-EU students to study in Germany.

Are other European nations reintroducing tuition fees?

Earlier in 2016 it was also announced that tuition fees for non-EU students will be reintroduced in Finland in autumn 2017. This follows suit with fellow Nordic nations Denmark and Sweden, which introduced tuition fees for non-EU students in 2006 and 2011 respectively. This means that from August 2017, non-EU students will pay a minimum fee of €1,500 (~US$1,600) per year. The only Nordic country to retain free tuition for students of all nationalities is Norway, which is not a member of the EU.

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This article was originally published in December 2016 .

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Written by

The former Assistant Editor of TopUniversities.com, Sabrina wrote and edited articles to guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

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