German student organisations have called for the resignation of education minister Edelgard Bulmahn after she supported charging fees for students who take more than 13 semesters to complete their first degrees.
Student unions claimed she had broken an election promise to ban fees. "Education politicians who introduce senseless sanctions such as fees for long-term students are detracting from their own failures and nurturing the cliche of 'lazy students'. It is unjustifiable to erect new social barriers that force young people to drop out of their studies," the unions argue in an open letter to Ms Bulmahn.
The students said Ms Bulmahn had dashed their hopes that she would introduce a progressive education policy. But Ms Bulmahn, an opponent of student fees, said that she had "no problem" with charging so-called "slow-lane" students.
Students had a responsibility to complete first degrees, she argued, "in the standard period (usually nine semesters) plus four semesters". And she dismissed claims that fees for long-stay students piled more pressure on the financially weak.
Ms Bulmahn said the BAFoG student support system, which she reformed earlier this year, offered poorer students sufficient aid to study.
Ms Bulmahn added that she still wanted to introduce legislation banning student fees for first degrees completed in the standard time.
"We must prevent slow-lane fees from opening the door to charging fees from the first semester," she said.
The student outrage at Ms Bulmahn follows a court judgment earlier this month that allowed the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg to charge €5,000 (£3,100) a semester for slow-lane students.
The court ruled that the state had not acted unconstitutionally when it ended time-unlimited study at the taxpayer's expense.
Baden-Wuerttemberg introduced its penalty fees in the winter semester of 1998-99. It cut the number studying longer than 13 semesters from 37,000 in 1997 to 21,000 by the end of 2000.