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Non-EU students at a German university. Critics worry that the extra charges could deter talented students from poorer countries from choosing to study in Germany / Photo: SIG

New fees for non-EU students could hurt German universities, say critics

Two states are set to introduce new fees specifically for students from outside the EU. But while local governments are eager to bring in the added revenues, critics say the price hikes could in fact hurt their universities.

The southwest state of Baden-Württemberg is bringing in new fees for non-EU students this winter semester 2017-18, while Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia is also looking to follow suit.

Baden-Württemberg has become the first state to introduce fees for students outside the EU, starting with the winter semester beginning in early to mid-October this year with charges of €1,500 per semester.

Students who were already enrolled before the state parliament finalized the fees in May will be exempt from paying the fees. There will also be exceptions made for other students, including those from certain less wealthy countries.

To read a full list of exceptions, click here.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s (NRW) coalition government of the conservative CDU and liberal FDP parties agreed in June that they would pass a similar law, also charging non-EU students €1,500 per semester. The parties said that this could bring in €100 million per year for the betterment of their universities.

Already critics, even among academic administrators, have voiced concerns about the plans.

President of Essen’s Folkwang University of the Arts, Andreas Jacob, told regional broadcaster WDR on Monday that 30 per cent of their students would be impacted by the proposed fees, and he worried that the extra charges could deter talented students from poorer regions from coming to his institution.

“The ones we are talking about are the absolute elites,” Jacob said.

“They are not the ones studying in mass subject programmes, but rather they are carefully selected, artistically excellent people. They are exactly the kinds of students that you really want to have.”

Heads of Ruhr-University Bochum and the Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences have similar perspectives, WDR reports. They note that non-EU students more often come for mathematics, information technology, natural sciences and technology – all subjects that are in high demand on the German job market. Therefore these kinds of students should be courted, not scared away by bigger fees, they say.

NRW coalition politicians have said there could be some exceptions made for certain students, like in Baden-Württemberg.

Even with the exemptions, a student in Freiburg has filed a lawsuit against the fees in Baden-Württemberg, Spiegel reported on Friday, in a case which could also ultimately have implications for North Rhine-Westphalia.

Students have called the fees a form of discrimination and question their constitutionality.

“We hope to retrospectively halt the fees through judicial means,” said Phillip Stöcks of the Freiburg University students’ union, which is supporting the case.

“The student fees in Baden-Württemberg violate the right to equal treatment,” said the student’s lawyer in the case, Wilhelm Achelpöhler. “We will fight against this in court together.”

© dpa

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