Efforts to resolve the deadlock over higher education reform in Germany look likely to result in shelving any plans to introduce tuition fees over the next few years.
A committee mediating over the proposed Higher Education Framework Act (HRG) between the federal parliament and the federal council has proposed a binding but limited embargo on fees which stops short of an absolute law.
While the Social Democrats, who have a majority in the council, would like to see the Lander sign an interstate agreement, the ruling coalition parties are pushing for an administrative agreement signed by the Lander chief ministers that would be binding on the state governments, but not for the respective parliaments.
A compromise could be reached after Easter, clearing the way for an approval of the HRG in May.
The SPD has called for a five-year agreement not to introduce tuition fees for undergraduates to be built into the HRG. According to Anke Brunn, North Rhine-Westphalia's higher education minister and a staunch opponent of fees, informal agreements among the Lander or even a federal council resolution would fall short of creating legal security for students. The ruling Christian and Liberal Democrats have stressed that they would reject any explicit ban on fees in the new law.