The University System in Germany- are students getting a better deal?

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The university system in the UK seems about to change. This, we are often told, is an inevitable consequence of the economic situation we have found ourselves in. But is it?

Despite the global recession, many countries still offer affordable education even though nearly every economy was hit by the recession in some way. In Germany, some students are paying less than €100 per year. But does their system work as well as ours?

Up until January 2005 Germany, along with Austria and the Scandinavian countries, had a ban on tuition fees and believed in “Bildung zum Nulltariff” or free education. Lifting this ban in 2005 sparked great protest throughout Germany.

Despite this, since September 2007 German Universities have started to charge modest tuition fees in comparison to those that we pay in Britain. Most students have to pay tuition fees every semester of between €50-€500. Compared to tuition fees in Britain this seems pretty reasonable. On the other hand, Germany currently has 375 “Hochschulen,” colleges and universities, many of which are underfunded and overcrowded.

This overcrowding is due to recent developments in the German education system. The period that German students study for has been reduced from 13 to 12 years. However this has led to the number of students gaining the ‘Abitur,’ the equivalent to our ‘A’ levels, reaching 41% in the late 1990’s, and as students are automatically accepted once they achieve the Abitur this is becoming unfeasible.

The German Government has also changed University degrees from a ‘diploma’ program to a Bachelor/Masters which means that German students can study abroad. This means more foreign students are able to study in Germany causing overcrowding and an imbalance within Universities as they struggle to accept more students than they can cope with.

German universities differ from ours in the fact that there are some private and some state universities. Private universities can choose how much to charge in tuition fees, much like the model set out in the Browne Review.

There are also different policies regarding tuition fees in different states. For example in Bavaria, tuition fees can be split between siblings if simultaneously at the University. For some vocational degrees it is possible to find a future employer willing to pay fees. However, those who pay their own tuition fees have to cover them personally as only one in four students receives a BAfög or student loan and with only an average of €398 paid monthly this often doesn’t cover both tuition fees and accommodation.

Although it may seem that Germany has a better system, it is important to note that not one of their universities ranked in the top 50 in the 2008 Times Higher Education World Universities Survey. Students receive relatively small loans from the Government and some universities are overcrowded and struggling to survive. Therefore it is not easy to say who has the better deal when it comes to University.

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I come from South West London and am studying English at Southampton. I am interested in journalism and considering it as a career after my degree. I have interests in Sports and Music and have written for a sports magazine called Sportsister before. I am keen to get involved in as much as possible whilst at Uni and writing about my experiences could be a very rewarding thing. :)

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