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EDUCATION

Uni raises tuition fees for non-EU foreigners

A university in the eastern Germany state of Saxony has become the first to raise tuition fees drastically for non-EU foreign students. The fee hike from €220 to €3,600 each year could set a nationwide precedent.

Uni raises tuition fees for non-EU foreigners
Photo: DPA

Germany has long been a haven for foreign students seeking solid education without the astronomical prices demanded elsewhere, wrote the website of Der Spiegel magazine on Thursday.

Germany’s 186,000 international students currently pay the same as locals – typically a maximum of a few hundred euros a semester, which usually includes the price of a semester transport ticket and health insurance.

Yet when Saxony’s government gave the state’s universities the choice from the beginning of this year to decide whether to demand higher fees from non-EU foreign students, many thought it could pave the way for the initiative to go nationwide.

So far, only one university in Leipzig has taken up the offer, wrote the magazine. From this September, the HMT music and theatre academy will hike up fees for international students from a current €220 per year to €3,600.

“We don’t want to be as cheap as possible, but rather as good as possible,” HMT dean Robert Ehrlich told the magazine. Competing schools in Amsterdam and Madrid are already charging much higher fees to foreigners, he added.

And HMT could become a model for higher education across Germany, with calls for differentiated fees for foreign students growing louder over the past years.

In 2010, North Rhine-Westphalia’s Science Minister Andreas Pinkwart demanded that “wealthy foreigners should pay what it is worth to study in one of the most prestigious scientific nations of the world.”

And in 2012, the Association of Sponsors of German Science called for Germany to follow the Dutch, Swedish and British leads in demanding annual fees of at least €10,000 for foreign students, which would bring in an extra €1.2 billion a year for the German education sector.

Tuition fees are such a highly controversial subject in Germany, however, it remains to be seen whether universities could introduce them – even for foreign students – in the face of at times militant student body.

In 2006, for example, Bonn University tried to ask non-EU students for an extra €150 per semester to cover the cost of German courses and orientation classes. However, the university decided to abolish the fee just three years later in response to continuing student protests.

The rule change in Saxony could prove equally controversial if other universities take advantage of their right to decide whether to charge foreigners, but at the moment the HMT fee is the exception rather than the rule.

Critics fear higher fees would lose Germany valuable foreign students, who are partly attracted by the extremely low fees, and point to the nation’s much-lamented lack of skilled workers and desperate need to attract the best brains from abroad.

The Local/jlb

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SAXONY

Saxony’s Covid rules get mixed reaction from the vaccine hesitant

The eastern German state of Saxony may have ordered tough restrictions on the unvaccinated to push them to get the Covid-19 jab, but shop assistant Sabine Lonnatzsch, 59, is unmoved.

People queue at a vaccination centre in Radeberg, eastern Germany, to get a Covid vaccination without an appointment, on November 8th.
People queue at a vaccination centre in Radeberg, eastern Germany, to get a Covid vaccination without an appointment, on November 8th. Photo: TOBIAS SCHWARZ / AFP

The new rules are “discriminatory” because they are “pushing the unvaccinated further into a corner,” she says. 

Lonnatzsch won’t change her mind about getting inoculated – she just won’t go to restaurants or events anymore.

“I’ve had corona cases in my family and in my eyes it is nothing more than a bad flu,” she says.

With Covid-19 infections rocketing in Germany, Saxony this week became the first to largely exclude unvaccinated people from indoor dining, cinemas and bars.

READ ALSO: Germany divided over Covid restrictions for the unvaccinated 

The new rules, likely to be emulated by other states in the coming weeks, are designed not only to reduce the spread of Covid-19 but also to encourage more people to get inoculated.

But Lonnatzsch is not the only one resisting the jab in the town of Radeberg in Bautzen district, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country at just 45.7 percent.

The clothing store No 1 Mode where she works has a sign in the window that lets customers know that all are welcome – regardless of vaccination status.

‘Bad for business’

Across the town square, the co-owner of Cafe Roethig also has no plans to get the vaccine. Like many people in the region, Carola Roethig, 58, is “not convinced” by the jab because “it was developed in such a short space of time”.

The district of Bautzen has one of the highest incidence rates in the country at 645.3 cases per 100,000 people, but Roethig is not worried about catching the virus.

People queue at a vaccination centre in Radeberg, Saxony.
People queue at a vaccination centre in Radeberg, Saxony. Photo: TOBIAS SCHWARZ / AFP

The new rules are “definitely bad for business,” she says at the cafe’s bakery counter, which is lined with untouched fresh cakes, tarts and iced donuts.

“Many of our customers are not vaccinated, so we are losing income, because fewer people are coming in,” she says.

READ ALSO:

The rules are also bad for her personal life.

“I’m not allowed to go to a restaurant in the evening and have a nice dinner with my husband. I don’t think it is right,” says Roethig.

Outside the cafe, 40-year-old Susan feels the same.

“Nothing would convince me” to get the jab, she says, without giving her last name.

“I see no sense in it because (vaccinated people) can still get the disease and infect others.”

Vaccine push

The new rules come as new infections surge in Germany, with the national incidence rate reaching 213.7 cases per 100,000 people over the past seven
days on Tuesday – a record since the pandemic began.

The political parties looking to form a coalition government after September’s election have so far ruled out compulsory vaccinations and general
lockdowns to tackle the surge.

But with just 67 percent of the population fully jabbed, ministers say encouraging more people to get vaccinated is key to bringing the numbers down.

Outside Radeberg town hall, a modest queue of people formed for a vaccination event organised to encourage more people to get the jab.

Kitchen assistant Mirmirza Kabirzada, 36, had previously hesitated because “I heard that many people died in Norway and others got a fever, so I was a little bit afraid”.

But with the numbers rising so dramatically, “now I realised this is very important,” he says.

AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine has been linked to very rare and potentially fatal blood clots, but experts agree that the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Intensive care nurse Nicole Wieberneit, 39, is waiting in line to get her booster.

She is optimistic that the new rules will encourage more people to get vaccinated.

“When it becomes about the freedom to travel, to go out to eat, I think more people will come forward. Freedom is very important to people in Saxony,” she says.

By Femke COLBORNE

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