Studying is a luxury for non-EU citizens in Baden-Württemberg

Status: 20.11.2021 2:01 p.m.

Baden-Württemberg is popular with students from all over the world – because of its many well-known colleges and universities. But the high fees make access difficult.

Baden-Württemberg is known worldwide for cars and industry. Companies such as Daimler, Bosch and SAP are based here. Many young people from all over the world also know Baden-Württemberg as a renowned place to study. A big disadvantage for certain international students: Baden-Württemberg has been charging tuition fees from everyone who comes from a non-EU country since the 2017/2018 winter semester – in this form, it is the only federal state in Germany.

The fees are 1500 euros per semester. In addition, there are the usual administrative fees that students from Germany and other EU countries also have to pay. In addition, the international students need a visa and financial security, which they have to prove before starting their studies. And: Many applicants still have to complete a year at a so-called preparatory college because their home school leaving certificate is often not enough for admission to a university or college.

Nothing works without financial help

The hurdles for studying in Germany are enormous, complain the two students Alma Halilović from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Julia Veloso de Oliveira from Brazil. You have gone through the entire process and are currently doing your master’s degree in electrical engineering at KIT in Karlsruhe. Both say: “I couldn’t afford to study in Germany without financial help”. Veloso de Oliveira receives a generous scholarship, Halilović receives financial support from her parents. And although both are privileged to do so, they still have to work. They explain that they would not be able to make ends meet without an additional part-time job.

The fact that they are currently studying in Baden-Württemberg despite the tuition fees is mainly due to the good reputation of the university and the good opportunities that both then work out for their careers. The fact that other students change their place of study in order to avoid the high fees – both of them have increasingly observed this, especially since the coronavirus pandemic. They are not alone in this: Angelika Weber from the Student Support Program for Foreign Students in Baden-Württemberg, STUBE for short, also reports that students from abroad change study locations within Germany – especially to Bavaria. “Anyone who does not earn well by German standards cannot afford to study in Germany,” Weber explains.

Fewer first-year students from non-EU countries

Many young people from non-EU countries have not even started studying in Baden-Württemberg since the introduction of tuition fees. The State Statistical Office recorded 9091 students from non-EU countries in the first semester of the 2016/2017 winter semester. One year later – for the winter semester (WS) 2017/2018, for which the tuition fees were introduced – there were only 7748 freshmen of this group, another year 8153, in the winter semester 2019/2020 then 7595 and then in the corona year 2020/2021 5175 freshmen from non-EU countries left.

The figures show that fewer students from non-EU countries have come to Baden-Württemberg since this group has had to pay tuition fees again – the coronavirus pandemic has probably further dampened the number. The Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science continues to adhere to the fees. And even more: on one SWR-The request said that the issue was not on the ministry’s agenda; the finance committee of the Baden-Wuerttemberg state parliament had asked the state government “to examine an increase in tuition fees for international students by at least ten percent”. This test is still ongoing.

“We want more internationalization, not less”

The Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science said on request that they did not want to save in the field of science. The tuition fees are a help, it said. Science Minister Theresia Bauer emphasized that her ministry wanted more internationalization in universities and colleges, not less. “International students are good for our country. But at the same time these students also need better supervision in order to successfully complete their studies,” said the Green politician. “The proportion of dropouts in this group is far higher than among local students. However, better supervision in this area costs additional money.”

The two students Halilović and Veloso de Oliveira doubt that the money actually benefits those who pay the fees. They feel treated unequally and discriminated against by the fees. Both agree: They cannot think of a single advantage that they have over the students who do not pay any fees. What comes to mind, on the other hand, are several disadvantages that come with their nationality: They cannot receive BAföG and have to mobilize a lot of money in order to be able to realize their dream of completing their studies in Germany at all.

GEW calls tuition fees discriminatory

The Education and Science Union (GEW) in Baden-Württemberg also joins this line of argument. The union said: “The GEW Baden-Württemberg sees this as discrimination against international students from non-EU countries.” The GEW state chairwoman Monika Stein makes it clear that the situation of international students in Baden-Württemberg is particularly precarious. “Without a part-time job and without the prospect of fast and unbureaucratic support in times of pandemic, that means the end of their studies for many international students,” said Stein.

For Julia Veloso de Oliveira and Alma Halilović, the reality is different despite the shortage of skilled workers in Germany: They hope that the renewed coronavirus wave does not mean that their exams are postponed and that they can only complete their master’s degree one semester later. Because then they would be faced with the question of how they can get the costs of their training together again.

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