The German state of Baden-Württemberg has announced that it intends to reintroduce tuition fees for international students to help its higher education institutions cover operational costs.

The south-western state had gotten rid of tuition fees in 2011, and its government has had to fund its universities and colleges since, which costs around €48 million (US$52 million) annually. 

However, the state’s Science, Art and Research Minister Theresia Bauer last month revealed plans to bring back tuition fees for non-EU students starting from the 2017/18 autumn semester.

According to the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), there are currently over 24,000 international non-EU students in Baden-Württemberg alone.

Even though the recently-elected Green-Christian Democrat government said it would not reinstate general tuition fees, there has long been a debate over applying them to overseas students.

Back in 2013, Green whip Edith Salzmann had suggested fees of up to €1,000 (US$1,074) for international students, arguing that those coming from the United States or Asia did not have poor families, reported University World News.

Under the new fees system, foreign non-EU students who are not German residents would be required to pay €1,500 (US$1,600) per semester.

The state government has faced criticism over the move – for example, the spokesman for the parliamentary Green party’s education policy, Kai Gehring, tweeted “No fees for anyone!” in response to the news, according to Deutsche Welle.

Gehring said that in the long run, saving in higher education would prove more expensive than investing in the area now.

Kambiz Ghawami, head of World University Service Germany, also disagreed with the decision.

“I’m very surprised that higher education minister Theresia Bauer is now attempting to make up for her government’s austerity measures by introducing tuition fees instead of insisting on a substantial increase in higher education funding,” he said.

Ghawami added that tuition-free tertiary education was one of the main factors that has attracted international students to Germany.

He also said that these same students would later on provide much needed skilled labour in Germany or act as “German ambassadors” back in their home countries.

At present, only about 15 percent of Germany’s international students receive grants, meaning that most of them have to get part-time jobs to support themselves financially.

Reintroducing tuition fees would add another financial burden, especially for students from developing countries, and may discourage some from considering the state’s universities as an option for their studies. 

Image via Shutterstock

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