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Undergraduate Tuition Fees Axed at All Universities in Germany

By Laura T

Updated March 20, 2021 Updated March 20, 2021

Note: As of autumn 2017, non-EU students now need to pay tuition fees to study at universities in Baden-Württemberg. Find out more here.

With the start of the winter term comes very welcome news for those who study in Germany at degree level: undergraduate tuition fees at all universities in Germany have now been axed.

Although the majority of the German states had already been offering low-cost or completely free tuition, only now, with the removal of fees in Lower Saxony, can the nation call itself completely free of tuition fees.

One of the German states to scrap tuition fees as far back as 2012 was the state of Hamburg. Hamburg’s senator for science, Dorothee Stapelfeldt, explained to The Hornet the reasoning behind the move. “Tuition fees are socially unjust,” she said. “They particularly discourage young people who do not have a traditional academic family background from taking up studies. It is a core task of politics to ensure that young women and men can study with a high quality standard free of charge in Germany.”

All German states now in agreement over free tuition fees

Germany has been heading towards free higher education since 2006, but conservative-led state governments in the west of the nation had so far resisted the changes, opting to charge €1,000 (US$1,261) a year. Under Germany’s federal system of state-based education policy, these charges were allowed after a constitutional court ruled that moderate tuition fees combined with loans was not contradictory to the nation’s commitment to universal higher education.

Since that time, however, all German states have moved towards the removal of tuition fees, with Lower Saxony the last state to bring in free tuition, after its Christian Democrat government was defeated in last year’s elections. Talking to The Hornet, the Green Party minister for science and culture in Lower Saxony, Gabriele Heinen-Kljajic said: “We got rid of tuition fees because we do not want higher education to depend on the wealth of the parents.”

No fees for international students, but some for postgraduates

While tuition is now free at all universities in Germany, there is still a nominal cost that all students will be charged. This cost, usually no more than €250 (US$315) per semester, is in place to cover administration, student support services and other unavoidable costs.

Students at master’s level may also still be expected to pay some tuition fees if they did not study in Germany for their bachelor’s degree. These ‘non-consecutive’ students can expect to pay fees of around €10,000 (US$12,644) per semester. Those who did study in Germany at undergraduate level, and are planning to enrol in a postgraduate program directly, may also be entitled to free or partial tuition fees.

It is likely that this change to legislation will help universities in Germany continue to attract prospective students from around the world, consolidating its place among the most popular international study destinations.

This article was originally published in October 2014 . It was last updated in March 2021

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Written by

Laura is a former staff writer for TopUniversities.com, providing advice and guidance for students on a range of topics helping them to choose where to study, get admitted and find funding and scholarships. A graduate of Queen Mary University of London, Laura also blogs about student life.

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