Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Germany opts for free tuition

Continental Europe can often surprise us in a big way. Most countries are going the way of increasing fees for university students. The model is market-based fee financed by loans (which may or not be subsidised by the state). Not so in Germany, according to a report in the Economist.

Many German states are opting for free university education. Fees in Germany generate revenues of only € 1.2 bn compared to total expenditure of € 36 bn. Private sources account for only 15% of revenues in German universities compared to two-thirds in the US. It could well be that not getting students to pay may be affecting the quality of universities- it's difficult to finance research and other activities of top quality without better funding. But education is inclusive.

Which model is better - the American model which imposes an enormous loan burden students but can produce very high quality or the German model which results in universities of lower quality but provides the widest access? The German economy is doing fine. Even though research in Germany may not be cutting edge, German manufacturing is known for quality. I leave it to you to judge.


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""" German manufacturing is known for quality. """

It is easier to achieve quality in non-cutting edge products. E.g. some of the best quality wrist watches are made in Switzerland, however that does not helps in making high frequency timers used in microprocessors. Thus manufacturing quality is not an accurate measure of progress in Research and Development. The process of discovery and invention is the difficult part any one can mass produce, or produce at a better quality.

Finally there aren't any institutions comparable to NIH, NSF etc

Anonymous said...

Good post.

The civilization today needs both - Innovation/inventions and (Quality & higher) education for all. The need for latter is more imperative than former. 20th Century has already seen considerable innovations; we can repose for a while. Mass quality education should be a priority and going by that sense, German model is more appropriate (rather than good or bad) for the civilization, atleast for couple of decades to go.

Making Life Better said...

Higher education is having direct result on countries productivity. But it is not sure that free education will motivate people to go for higher education.

Ashutosh Gupta said...

I am in computer science research. My impression was that German research is one of the few that can challenge US innovation machine. May be only third to UK or France. Can you please cite some study that justify your point that German research is not sharp enough?

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