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ECJ opinion: German legislation hinders student mobility

The European Court of Justice has recently delivered an opinion on the German legislation on study grants that unduly restricts the freedom of movement of students. By law, the German state awards international study funding on the grounds that a student will study abroad after at least one year of attending a German institution. Further, awards should not be given to those living and studying outside of Germany in border towns if they are not permanent residents of a German border town. These two discretions have recently come to head as two cases involving the denial of mobility grants to German nationals have been referred to the ECJ. One case involves a young German national who moved to Great Britain for a year to au pair before beginning her university study. The other, also a German national, is a young secondary student who moved from Bonn to Düren, a German boder town, to more easily study in the nearby Dutch town of Heerlan. In both cases, grants were denied; on the basis of the restriction that studying abroad must be complementary to their education in Germany, not a substitute. Advocate General Ruiz-Jarabo has issued the following opinion:
  • German legislation hinders the freedom of movement of students, which violates Community law;
  • German students are deterred from registering at universities in other Member States for a full course of study since they would be forced to forgo financial advantages;
  • Denial of grants to cross-border students infringes freedom of movement and punishes their choice of education institution: habitual residents of Germany should have rights to grants even if they have been schooled in a neighboring country.
The Advocate General has proposed this non-binding opinion to the ECJ, who will now begin deliberating the case. A final ruling will come later. Press release