Free Tuition in Germany!
In October 2014, Germany’s northwestern state of Niedersachsen, was the last to abolish tuition fees for its national and international students. These exciting changes have made the headlines from CNN to GEO TV and many news outlets in between. Most of the other German states have had free tuition for a few years now. Gabriele Heinen-Kljajic, Minister for Science and Culture in Niedersachsen, did not want a student’s wealth or the financial abilities of parents to determine whether one could achieve a higher education.
Since 2006, several German states have decided on minimal tuition fees, averaging €1,000 per year (approximately $1,260 annually). But higher education leaders felt that such fees were still unjust. Thus, one by one, states eliminated tuition fees again. Baden-Wuerttemberg, for instance, a state located in the southwest of Germany, and my home state, was one of the first to discontinue tuition fees at all public universities starting in the summer of 2012. These changes impacted Bachelor’s and consecutive Master’s programs. Baden-Wuerttemberg compensates public universities for those tuition losses with 100% coming from state funds. Even Niedersachsen will replace all lost funds, as long as universities use those monetary resources to increase the quality of their programs. Even students are given a voice in how these state funds will be spent at their respective university.
Financial support for public universities and research institutions will be provided by the states and the federal government. According to a German news article published on October 30, €25.3 million will be made available for higher education institutions by 2020. The money will be spent to increase spots for national and international students due to the increasing demand to study at German universities.
The QS World University Rankings® 2014/15 highlights the top 100 Global Universities. While the US and UK dominate the top 10, countries such as Canada, Switzerland, Australia, France, Korea, Singapore, Japan, and China, also earned a top-50 ranking on this list. Germany’s Ruprecht-Karls University in popular Heidelberg ranked 49th, closely followed by Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich (rank 52), and Technische University in Munich (rank 54).
Given the affordability and quality of higher education, it is not surprising that more international students than ever before choose to enroll in German universities. Students, faculty, and staff experience greater cultural appreciation and inclusion. Johanna Wanka, Federal Minister of Education and Research in Germany, recently stated that excellent science requires international exchange. More than 300,000 international students, or about 10 percent of all students enrolled at German universities, attended the 2013-14 winter semester. Master’s and engineering programs are especially very popular among international students.
While the German language may create some hesitation and concern for foreign students, international programs of study can be found for many disciplines, which may provide the solution to studying abroad – while speaking English. Most Germans, especially younger and middle-aged people, are also fairly fluent in English. Being born and raised in Germany, I took English for six years while attending school. I was always happy to practice my English with people from other countries, and most of my fellow citizens feel the same. So, getting by on a daily basis should not be a problem for non-German speakers who are comfortable with the English language.
Assistance with non-tuition expenses, such as living expenses (i.e. room, food, transportation), can be provided by DAAD, a German agency supporting thousands of individuals in higher education on an annual basis. Studying abroad in Germany certainly has its advantages. This country may have just over 80 million residents, but it provides endless opportunities for affordable higher education.