History of Tuition Fees in Germany

History of Tuition Fees in Germany

Posted on 07 Jun 2014 Views ( 946 )

For an International student, the combination of local universities and local politics and the reversal of seemingly inevitable tuition fees in Germany may seem like another world. But the same forces had produced the same result in Scotland a decade ago.

Between the period of 1412 and 1582, this small and thinly populated country founded five separate universities – more per head of population than any other country in Europe. If Germany is the land of Dichter und Denker (poets and thinkers) then Scotland is home to “the democratic intellects”. In May 1999, when Westminster handover the control of higher education to new parliament in Holyrood, one of its first major acts was to revisit the £1,000 tuition fees which was introduced a year earlier throughout the UK: Tuition fees were replaced by a graduate endowment fee, which was abolished after two years it came into effect.

The English case could be more different from the German one. Two universities (Oxford and Cambridge) had a 600-year headstart on the others, piling up pedagogical system, a collegiate structure, resources, buildings, and historical associations, which distinguishes them clearly from all the others. England therefore lacks a cluster of ancient local universities.

England’s educational system and the results of its’ historical legacy are most regrettable, unmistakable, and profound. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, after United States of America, England has the most highly stratified major university system in the world and the most rapidly growing provision of elite private schooling. The nation is among the most unequal distribution of income, wealth, and opportunity. And these problems are now being compounded by the highest university fees by far of any public university system anywhere. Policies are made on speculative, abstract, and ultimately on ideological grounds.

During the 2010 general election, Conservatives and Labor guaranteed to keep higher education out of their manifestos. And after the election, the Liberal Democrats infamously betrayed their most prominent manifesto commitment altogether. If the changes imposed in this electoral cycle are allowed to bed down for another one, they may prove irreversible.

English politicians insist that the public funding of higher education is unsustainable and that is why they are being realistic. They also added that one day the rest of the world will be forced to imitate their bold reforms.

Yet many Scandinavian countries like Germany maintain well-organized and high-quality university systems without charging students. How come this supposedly unsustainable arrangement being sustained in Europe’s most economically successful countries?