Federal Constitutional Court: Tuition is Constitutional

27 Jan

Good news if you are an advocate of raising tuition in Germany:

In a decision welcomed by university leaders but lamented by students, Germany's highest court ruled on Wednesday 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 often understaffed. 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 1,000 marks, or about $550, a semester.

I have to admit I'm glad to see this. While I think the move to transform European systems of higher education into an "American model" is ill-advised, the resistance to making students pay in the UK and Germany (among other places) has really prevented them from raising the capital necessary to make their educational system top-rate.

Link: The Chronicle: Daily news: 01/27/2005 — 05

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