Non-EU tuition fee plan is ‘poison’, according to DSW

The German National Association for Student Affairs or Deutsches Studentenwerk (DSW) has spoken out against the introduction of tuition fees for non-European Union international students in Bavaria.

The Christian Social Union-led government of the Free State of Bavaria announced new fees for non-EU international students in its draft Higher Education Innovation Act, which is expected to receive parliamentary approval before the summer recess and is then to enter into force in January 2023.

Fees for non-EU international students were introduced in the neighbouring state of Baden-Württemberg in 2017-18 by its Green Party-led government.

‘Poison’ for equal opportunities

“Tuition fees represent a social hurdle in access to higher education,” said Matthias Anbuhl, secretary general of the DSW, the umbrella association of Germany’s 57 student services organisations. “They are poison for equal opportunities. This is almost unanimously agreed on in politics and society.”

Anbuhl also pointed out that Bavaria’s state parliament voted in favour of abolishing general tuition fees in 2013, following a petition for a referendum which opted for this, and called on the Bavarian government to refrain from the move.

Anbuhl said surveys conducted by the DSW have again and again shown that financing studies is one of the chief problems which Germany’s roughly 325,000 international students currently have to cope with.

In the bridging aid provided by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, which was distributed by DSW organisations during the pandemic, 30% of funds went to international students, even though they only account for a small share of the country’s total 2,947,500 students.

Strain on universities

“The tuition fees planned in Bavaria are also poison for the internationalisation goals of the federal and state governments, and they are not a suitable means to consolidate a state budget because they put a considerable strain on university management,” Anbuhl said.

“This can be demonstrated by the example of Baden-Württemberg, where the introduction of fees has led to a decline in the number of international students from non-EU countries.”

He pointed out that the state of North Rhine-Westphalia recently decided against introducing such fees, also because of the enormous administrative effort involved.

“Being free of tuition fees is a key strategic advantage for Germany in the process of internationalising our higher education system,” Anbuhl said.

“This is also a reason why Germany has once again become the most important non-Anglophone host country for international students worldwide, and across all host countries, fourth after the US, Australia and the United Kingdom. In no circumstances should we forfeit this locational advantage.”