[Paleopsych] CHE: German High Court Overturns National Ban on Tuition
checker at panix.com
Mon Jan 31 15:43:40 UTC 2005
German High Court Overturns National Ban on Tuition
The Chronicle of Higher Education, 5.2.4
[Important article for followers of states' rights issues.]
By AISHA LABI
Germany's highest court ruled last week that a ban on tuition, imposed
by the federal government in 2002, was unconstitutional.
The eight-judge panel of the Federal Constitutional Court, in
Karlsruhe, decided in favor of the six states that had sued to
overturn the ban, saying it violated Germany's postwar Constitution,
which makes education the preserve of the 16 states, or Länder, rather
than the federal government.
Germany's universities, once world renowned, have suffered under the
current system, as cash-strapped state governments have cut back on
financing for higher education.
University classrooms are notoriously overcrowded, and facilities are
often ill equipped and poorly maintained. Many universities have
eliminated entire departments to save money, and those that remain are
A recent ranking by The Times Higher Education Supplement of the
world's leading universities placed only one German institution -- the
University of Heidelberg -- in the top 50.
German university students pay no tuition and tend to take far longer
to graduate than their counterparts in other European countries. The
southern state of Baden-Württemberg, where the University of
Heidelberg is located, became the first to impose tuition on long-term
students in 1998, when it began charging undergraduates who had been
pursuing their degrees for more than six years about $550 per
semester. That practice was stopped by the federal government's 2002
"We were also the first to promote and to plan general tuition fees,
although Bavaria will be the first to actually have them, since they
now hope to install them as soon as later this year," said Gunter
Schanz, the spokesman for Baden-Württemberg's education ministry. Such
fees will apply to all university students, not just to those who take
more than a set number of years to complete their degrees.
No Fees Until 2007
Baden-Württemberg does not expect to begin imposing fees, which will
probably be around 500 euros a semester, or about $660, until 2007,
said Mr. Schanz. The state's 9 research universities, 22 universities
of applied science, and 6 universities of education cost about
$2.9-billion a year to run. The additional revenue generated by
tuition, about $182-million, will go entirely to those institutions
and will be spent primarily on teaching, said Mr. Schanz.
Christoph Parchmann, deputy spokesman of Bavaria's education ministry,
confirmed that fees of no more than 500 euros a semester are likely to
be collected there by the end of the year. "We want to change the
system as quickly as possible," he said. Specifics have yet to be
decided, and Mr. Parchmann said that everybody, including students,
the universities, parliament, the unions, and other state officials,
will be consulted.
"What we will not do," he vowed, "is to tell the people how the system
is hoping to be and to ask them afterward what they think."
Like the other states that challenged the federal government's tuition
ban, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria are governed by parties on the
right, while the federal government is run by a coalition of
Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's left-leaning Social Democrats and the
Green Party. Now that the court ruling leaves the matter of whether to
impose tuition up to the states, their decisions are likely to be
based on political alliances.
"The Social Democrat states are not willing to introduce fees because
they think it is not good socially and that it will be prohibitive for
students," said Florian Frank, a spokesman for the federal education
Last week's ruling was welcomed by university administrators. "We are
pleased that there is now room for the introduction of tuition fees,
and we're hoping that the Länder will put new legislation into place
to allow universities to raise fees," said Christiane Ebel-Gabriel,
secretary general of the German Rectors' Conference, which represents
the heads of most of Germany's institutions of higher education.
States that choose to allow fees will first have to pass enabling
legislation, and Ms. Ebel-Gabriel said that the universities' main
concern now is to monitor that process. She and her colleagues believe
that universities should be permitted to decide how to exercise their
"Universities should be able to decide to what extent they want to
raise fees, and they should be able to decide not to raise fees for
certain programs," said Ms. Ebel-Gabriel. "There are some programs
that are very attractive to students, such as M.B.A. programs and
other programs that attract large numbers, that the universities
should be able to charge more for."
Under Ms. Ebel-Gabriel's preferred system, a university should be
allowed to charge more to students in a popular business program, up
to a maximum cap, and less to students in an undersubscribed research
program. The university should also be allowed to decide how to spend
the money it collects, she said.
"The other possibility is that the Länder will define the level of
fees universally within each state, for all universities and all
programs identically," said Ms. Ebel-Gabriel. "We feel that this takes
freedom and initiative and autonomy away from the universities."
Mr. Schanz, of the education ministry in Baden-Württemberg, said that
"different fees for different studies and different disciplines" was a
long-term possibility in that state.
None of the states are considering charges of more than 500 euros a
semester, but even that amount strikes many students as exorbitant.
German student groups reacted angrily to the ruling.
"Tuition fees will affect living conditions for people throughout the
country, not just in states that have the fee," predicted Christine
Scholz, who is studying for a master's degree in art history at the
Free University of Berlin and is on the executive board of Germany's
main student union, which represents 1.1 million of the country's 2
million university students.
Students in states that impose fees will be forced to relocate to
states with lower fees or no fees in order to complete their studies,
Ms. Scholz said, citing a recent online poll by Der Spiegel. The
magazine's poll found that most Germans oppose tuition.
She and her colleagues hope to tap into that sentiment in
demonstrations planned for February 3 in five cities -- Essen,
Hamburg, Hannover, Leipzig, and Mannheim -- to protest the ruling.
More information about the paleopsych