‘Germany scraps tuition fees for all students’ is a pretty sweet headline to come across when you’re flicking through the internet. But, it’s a little misleading.
Germany is a federal republic, and actually the state of Lower Saxony is where tuition fees have been abolished.
And why hasn’t the rest of Germany followed suit, you ask? Because they’ve already been abolished throughout the rest of the country.
Lower Saxony is the final German state to abolish tuition fees, meaning Germany is now an entirely no-fee zone.
Dorothee Stapelfeldt, senator for science in the state of Hamburg told the English Times; “Tuition fees are socially unjust [..]They particularly discourage young people who do not have a traditional academic family background from taking up studies. It is a core task of politics to ensure that young women and men can study with a high quality standard free of charge in Germany”.
Wow. As Dazed put it in their article on the subject; “What’s the German word for ‘deep regret at choosing the wrong place of study, tinged with envy and bitterness?’”.
The significance of this piece of news, apart from making a skip over the land of Bertolt Brecht and Phillip Lahm for any future studying seem infinitely appealing, is that it comes while the very definition of a university, and the place they occupy in our societies, is at the centre of an ideological battle.
The consistent fee-raising that occurs in Irish and UK universities transforms the definition of third-level education, in fact education in general, from a right to a purchasable service.
By making university access a purchasable service, rather than a right as citizen of the state, it becomes something that it’s possible to withhold from us unless we pay the right price (which in this case is hideously high: Irish fees have risen every year while I’ve been at university, and in England a three year degree can now cost as much as £54,000).
Essentially, it’s one more right our states have decided we are not entitled to. Germany’s decision means that the German definition of a citizen is therefore entitled to much more than the Irish or British definitions, because this decision confirms that university education is now a fundamental right.
And the German decision can’t be dismissed as unworkable idealism, because German universities have only been allowed to charge fees since 2006.
And now, having seen that the effects of charging fees has, federal state governments have decided that it is not functional, and have decided to revert to their historic system of no fees, which in their opinion is the only system that works, which contrasts with the opinions of Irish politicians, who seem to believe that university fees are a vital part of a functioning society.
The example of Germany, as well as Sweden and other countries who manage not to charge people extortionate amounts to learn, maintain a top-class university system and avoid the financial apocalypse our politicians promise us upon the re-introduction of fees, would seem to torpedo the logic behind university fees. It shows that fees are an ideological economic choice, and not a budgeting necessity.
It’s unlikely to change Irish government policy, but as Dazed concludes their article; “I hear Hamburg is great this time of the year”.
By Austin Maloney