german universities
According to reports, the Bavarian state of Germany plans to introduce tuition fees for non-European students. Source: Ina Fassbender/AFP

German universities are among the best in the world. Apart from its world-class education and globally recognised degrees, the country has become a preferred study destination for international students who typically pay zero or little tuition fees at public universities.

A tuition-free education, however, could be a thing of a past for some international students. According to SchengenVisaInfo, the Bavarian state of Germany is planning to introduce tuition fees for non-European students. It said unions defending students’ rights have objected to the decision profoundly.

Deutsches Studentenwerk, or German Student Welfare Service (DSW), the association of Germany’s 57 Student Services Organisations, spoke out against the introduction of tuition fees for international students from non-EU countries, which Bavaria plans to introduce amid the new Bavarian Higher Education Innovation Act.

DSW General Secretary Matthias Anbuhl said in a press statement, “Tuition fees represent a social hurdle in access to higher education; they are poison for equal opportunities.” 

german universities

German universities offer gloablly recognised degrees. Source: Ina Fassbender/AFP

Tuition-free German universities is a ‘key strategic advantage’

Anbuhl said financing studies is among the main problems which Germany’s roughly 325,000 international students have to cope with.

“Although they have to provide proof of financial means totalling 10,300 euros in order to enrol, the true costs of a study stay create big problems for them, especially what they have to pay in rent,” he said.

He added that the tuition fees planned in Bavaria are “poison” for the internationalisation goals of the federal and state governments, adding that they are not a suitable means to consolidate a state budget because they put a considerable strain on university management.

“This can be demonstrated by the example of Baden-Württemberg, where the introduction of the fees has led to a decline in the number of international students from non-EU countries. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia has decided against introducing such fees, also because of the enormous administrative effort such a measure entails,” he said. 

Tuition-free German universities are also a key advantage for the country compared to other popular study abroad destinations. 

“Being free of tuition fees is a key strategic advantage for Germany in the process of internationalising our higher education system.

“This is also a reason why Germany has once again become the most important non-Anglophone host country for international students world-wide, and across all host countries, fourth after the US, Australia and the UK. In no circumstances should we forfeit this locational advantage.”

While international students attending public universities in Germany can enjoy a tuition-free education, they still have to pay an administration fee, which could cost approximately €250 per semester. Non-fluent German speakers can also find English-taught programmes.