German leaders, not students, reject charges

Opposition to tuition fees among German students is waning as they reap the benefits of extra educational funds, a conference has heard.

May 10, 2012

Stephan Bierling, professor of international politics at the University of Regensburg, told a British Council conference on the UK and German higher education systems that opposition to upfront fees came principally from politicians, not students.

Undergraduate concerns revolved around overcrowded classrooms, lack of contact time and inadequate facilities, Professor Bierling told the conference in Wildbad Kreuth, near Munich, on 3 May, an event co-hosted by the Hanns Seidel Foundation and the Centre for British Studies, University of Bamberg.

Students were anxious that the quality of their university studies should not be diminished, he said.

Only two German states allow universities to impose "student contributions" - Bavaria and Lower Saxony. Most provinces have scrapped upfront fees, which only usually amount to around EUR500 (£406) a semester.

Professor Bierling, a former vice-president at Regensburg, which charges fees, said the revenue gained (which must be spent directly on students and during the semester it is received) had been vital in improving the academic experience.

"For the first time, my university has created an income that is not subject to political interference," he said. "If you do not generate income of your own, you cannot have autonomy." He added that fees had allowed Regensburg to offer humanities classes with fewer than 20 people and to buy journals and textbooks.

"I would say we were maybe third or fourth division in terms of our equipment. But we are now close to the Premier League and are knocking on the door."

However, Professor Bierling observed, German politicians were unwilling to make the case for fees because of voters' deep-seated commitment to equality.

"No politician will say: 'Because of these funds we were able to hire people and have a more formalised approach to university studies.' Politicians in regions that introduced tuition fees were voted out of office," he said.

"This [opposition] is deeply rooted in our culture. The value of equality is much more appreciated than the need for [university] freedom or performance."

Dieter Mehl, emeritus professor of English at the University of Bonn, added: "For political reasons, [fees are] sabotaged and it is voters who decide as they influence politicians.

"It is very unlikely that universities will be able to introduce tuition fees. It is paradoxical because we have fees for kindergarten, but universities are expected to be free."

jack.grove@tsleducation.com.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Recruitment - Human Resources Office

University Of Nottingham Ningbo China

Outreach Officer

Gsm London

Professorship in Geomatics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Professor of European History

Newcastle University

Head of Department

University Of Chichester
See all jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

sitting by statue

Institutions told they have a ‘culture of excluding postgraduates’ in wake of damning study

A face made of numbers looks over a university campus

From personalising tuition to performance management, the use of data is increasingly driving how institutions operate