Following her election in late 2011 to the office of the Ministry for Minister of Science, Research and the Arts for Baden-Württemberg, Theresia Bauer from the Greens celebrated the abolition of tuition fees for higher education. Yet today, along with the Christian Democrats, the new coalition partner of the Greens, she is planning to put us back on path of regressing towards campus taxes. Proposed reforms to tuition fees could soon require non-EU students to pay 1500 Euros per semester; all students would be obliged to pay 650 Euro per semester if they pursue a second degree (“Zweitstudium”). In addition, existing administration fees would be increased for all students, from 60 Euros to 70 Euros per semester.
While official discourse frames this as a way for the ministry to achieve a balanced budget, what is actually being advocated is yet another ideologically motivated step in the neoliberal(*) policy of higher education. This will not only sharpen social inequalities, but also discriminate against students on the basis of nationality, and harm the internationalisation of science and academia. At the same time, these planned changes are also a gateway for the introduction of overall student tuition fees, not just against the groups who are presently affected.
Against tuition fees for non-EU-citizens. Education is a human right!
Tuition fees for non-EU citizens will worsen the effect of social inequality on accessing higher education, especially on a global level. Foreign students are already confronted with high financial barriers. Increased tuition fees will only exclude even more prospective foreign students from coming to Germany on the basis of their disadvantaged financial conditions. In the process, universities will become more elitist as institutions, as well as reinforce postcolonial power dynamics.These planned changes do not merely go against the German Constitution as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the United Nations, but also harms the internationalisation of science and academia. It is unfounded to justify these changes on the basis that Germany should not have to subsidise the costs of education for foreigners. The fact is that many non-EU students remain in Germany after their studies to work. In a very short amount of time, millions of euros are contributed via tax revenue to our social welfare by these educated non-EU citizens.
Against tuition fees for a second degree. Lifelong learning for everyone!
The introduction of tuition fees for a second degree is reflective of the notion that higher education is uniquely and chiefly a one-time pursuit of job qualifications. In reality, there are many good reasons for a second degree. The ideal of ‘lifelong learning’ will be made much more difficult by the introduction of tuition fees for a second degree. In addition, accelerating changes to the job market creates pressure on increasing numbers of people to pursue a second degree due to economic necessity. For these reasons, access to higher education should not depend on the size of one’s wallet.
Against the increasing of administration fees. For public financing of higher education!
The administration fees that will be increased by 10 Euros per semester are nothing but hidden tuition fees. This represents one out of many of the factors that hinder disadvantaged students from the pursuit of higher education. At very least, it would also increase their financial burdens.
It remains that the right to education should be for everyone and not contracted with tuition fees, regardless of the form that they arrive in. Education is an undertaking that involves the collective effort of society. Instead of using students to plug the budget deficit for the state parliament of Baden-Württemberg, the financing of universities and institutions of higher education should be based on completely public funds. It is high time for a new (student) protest movement! Are you with us?
(*Neoliberalism: In this context, it refers to the political belief that the state should limit subsidies, promote practices encouraging the free market, and to allow the private sector more control of various matters, like education, transport, and the economy in general. Related political leaders that have implemented neoliberal policies include Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom, and Ronald Reagan in the United States.)