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Germany: NRW next state in line to introduce tuition fees

North Rhine Westphalia’s (NRW) Conservative – Liberal coalition government has announced that it plans the introduction of tuition fees for non-EU nationals as of the forthcoming winter semester. This makes NRW the second German state to follow suit after Baden-Württemberg’s introduction of tuition fees this February, which generated heated debate on state claims that the generation of fee income was needed to fund internationalisation of its universities and provide superior student services.  

In the future, non-EU students in NRW are to pay an amount of EUR 1500 per semester. Exemptions may be made for students from developing countries and recognised refugees.  NRW’s Conservative – Liberal government anticipates to secure funds of up to EUR 100 million annually for the higher education sector, through the introduction of fees.

NRW’s Jusos (the young socialists) of Germany’s social democratic party (SPD) and other actors have sharply criticised the planned changes, emphasising societal and economic benefits of international students to outweigh by far accrued costs. Doubts are cast on the viability of the anticipated boost in funding levels for universities, as the current number of oversees students would need to remain steady.  If non EU students would continue to choose NRW as a study destination, with the majority of Germany’s States currently offering tuition free education, remains uncertain.  Determining in the development of mobility trends across Germany will also be whether further states will decide to follow in line and introduce tuition fees.  A  study in 2014, commissioned by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), showed that Germany benefits economically from the mobility of international students, revealing that consumer spending of students led to tax revenues of EUR 400 million, and that public investment in international students payed for itself if 30 % of graduates stay on and worked for at least five years after completing their studies.

In 2011 NRW formally abolished its tuition fees, and it remains to be seen if the reintroduction of student contributions from non-EU nationals will uphold the attractiveness of the state as a study destination and turn out to be as described a "innovative path, for raising the quality of education’’.

Coalition-contract of the NRW’s Conservative – Liberal government (only in German)