Contemporay Germany
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Contemporay Germany
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How Germany Managed to Abolish University Tuition Fees | Barbara Kehm |

How Germany Managed to Abolish University Tuition Fees | Barbara Kehm | | Contemporay Germany |

If Germany has done it, why can’t we? That’s the question being asked by many students around the world in countries that charge tuition fees to university. From this semester, all higher education will be free for both Germans and international students at universities across the country, after Lower Saxony became the final state to abolish tuition fees.

It’s important to be aware of two things when it comes to understanding how German higher education is funded and how the country got to this point. First, Germany is a federal country with 16 autonomous states responsible for education, higher education and cultural affairs. Second, the German higher education system – consisting of 379 higher education institutions with about 2.4m students – is a public system which is publicly funded. There are a number of small private institutions but they enrol less than 5% of the total student body.

Until 1970-71, West-German higher education students had to pay tuition fees at the level of about 120 to 150 German Marks per semester. There were needs-based exceptions but basically these fees had to be paid by every student.

When they came to power in the late 1960s, Germany’s Social Democrats supported higher education expansion by promoting widening participation and equal opportunities and by increasing the number of higher education institutions. From 1971 onwards, a system of state financial assistance for students was established and tuition fees were abolished. The assistance came first as a grant, later as a mix of half repayable-loan and half grant.

During the peak period of higher education expansion in the late 1960s, exclusive funding of higher education by the states became too much of a burden. New provisions were introduced for a framework law laying down the general principles governing higher education across West Germany. The first law, introduced in 1976, included a prohibition of tuition fees.

Despite a flirtation with the idea of re-introducing tuition fees under the conservative-liberal coalition government in the 1980s, a stalemate ensued over whether tuition fees would lead state governments to reduce their regular funding to universities.

The fall of the Berlin Wall and German Unification put all reform plans on hold for several years until the whole East German system of higher education institutions and academies had been evaluated and reformed. A new discussion about tuition fees then started around the mid-1990s, with their re-introduction seen as a solution to a number of existing problems in the higher education system.

Around the end of the 1990s, the dam of resistance broke by allowing the introduction of fees for so-called long-term students: students who had been enrolled several semesters past the regular duration of their study programme and had not finished.

Those states with a conservative government filed a law suit in 2002 against the framework law of higher education, arguing that its prohibition of tuition fees was an illegitimate intervention into the legal authority for educational matters of the states. The Federal Constitutional Court upheld the complaint in 2005; immediately, seven states introduced tuition fees.

In 2006, the framework law was abolished under wider reforms of German federalism. Tuition fees were capped at 500 Euros per semester, but Berlin and all East-German states refused to introduce them.


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A T & T Ad - Fall of Berlin Wall - 1989

AT & T uses the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 in ad

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The New Flesh: Our Avatars

The New Flesh: Our Avatars | Contemporay Germany |

Culturally defining moments are happening exclusively through mediated images dispersed through multiple sources, indefinitely available, detached in time from their sources. They are regurgitated in various forms upon release so that they become a hybrid of event and iteration. Whether it be the fall of the Berlin Wall, the police beating of Rodney King and subsequent LA riots, the O.J. Simpson trial, the Branch Davidians’ standoff in Waco, 9/11, or countless others, all of these events were dispersed to millions of people as televised media.

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Fall of the Berlin Wall: Children born after the Iron Curtain fell have worse parents, study claims

Fall of the Berlin Wall: Children born after the Iron Curtain fell have worse parents, study claims | Contemporay Germany |

A generation of Germans born in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall suffered poor parenting from "risk loving" mothers and fathers, according to a new study.

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