Currently German public universities are tuition free for international students, unless they are located in the state of Baden-Württemberg in the south of the country.
The state introduced fees for non-EU students in 2017, but is set to drop the costs of €1,500 per semester or €3,000 per year after falls in recruitment.
In July last year, Bavaria’s federal government passed the University Innovation Act which opened up the opportunity for the state’s universities to introduce tuition fees for students from non-EU countries.
Up to now, TUM is the only university in Bavaria to say it will set fees for international students from outside the European Union.
From the 2024/25 winter semester, non-EU students enrolling in a new degree program at the institution will be charged between €2,000-3,000 for bachelor’s and €4,000-6,000 for master’s programs per semester.
TUM says the fees will be used to improve study conditions, develop teaching capabilities, expand advising and support services and improve student infrastructure.
It also notes that the introduction of fees is “structured in a socially responsible manner”, by creating opportunities for waivers and scholarship programs.
Those with “established domestic connections”, meaning individuals that have resided in Germany for a total of at least five years before beginning studies or with one parent regularly employed in Germany for a total of at least three years during the last six years, will be eligible for tuition fee waivers.
Students with disabilities and asylum seekers will also be exempt.
Representatives for students on the TUM Senate and University Council have argued that the university should focus on supporting talented students. They also say that students should not be dependent on the income of the parents regardless of their background.
TUM says that the fees are needed to allow the university to “continue to live up to” the trust that more and young people from all over the world annually put in its “outstanding education and training”.
“To achieve this, it is essential to offer not only exceptional personalities in research and teaching, but also the highest standards in infrastructure, equipment, learning spaces, management and student support,” it says.
The new tuition fees will “benefit all students by ensuring excellent academic conditions in the long term”.
The University Innovation Act in Bavaria from last year also reiterated that universities can offer courses in foreign languages and encouraged them to develop international study programs together with foreign, “especially European”, universities where study sections and examinations are taken at the partner university.
It also noted promoting students’ multilingual skills and sufficient knowledge of German among foreign-language students as “general tasks” for institutions.
For founder and CEO of Study.eu, Gerrit Bruno Blöss, it is “odd” that the state government of Bavaria made tuition fees possible “against the backdrop of shortages of skilled workers in so many professional areas”.
“But then, it’s no surprise that Bavaria’s most renowned university is among the first to make use of the new law,” he said.
“Luckily, the fee levels are modest in comparison to their international peers, and there are comparably generous exemptions,” Blöss, who is a TUM alumnus, added. “I would hope that they make good on the promise of providing opportunities for waivers and scholarships. It would be a shame if the fees meant that TUM became inaccessible for bright young talents.”
“Domestic competitors should expect increased interest from non-European applicants”
Earlier this year, Norway announced it would introduce fees for non-EU students beginning autumn 2023, following its neighbour Sweden, which put in fees in 2011. Finland is also increasing fees for non-EU students.
The state of Baden-Württemberg said in April that it wants to abolish fees for non-EU students, despite collecting some €30 million from around 10,000 non-EU students last year. The Greens–CDU coalition has agreed that the abolition is something they want to “implement together”.
It is unclear whether TUM will see a decrease in international student enrolments due to the university being highly selective. Tax-deductible tuition fees also allow international students to recoup some of their costs.
Blöss predicted however that TUM will see a “sharp drop” in application numbers from overseas.
“But given their low acceptance rates, this doesn’t have to mean any effective reduction in enrolments. Domestic competitors, meanwhile, should expect increased interest from non-European applicants,” he said.