BRUSSELS – Growing disparities in tuition fees in Europe has caused reason for the European Students’ Union (ESU) to ring the alarm bells. Karina Ufert, ESU Chair said: “We are witnessing a vast drop in student applications for universities in Europe as tuition fees are on the rise in many countries. There is no time to contemplate or discuss any longer. Europe must act and put a halt to creating more barriers to education.”
There has been a 15,1 percent decrease in university applications in England since the tuition fees went up. In Denmark and more recently in Sweden, for example, where tuition fees were introduced for non-EU students, the applications dropped by 25 percent and in Denmark by a larger percentage, according to the recently published EHEA Stocktaking Report .
A report from the European Commission, published on 10 September, reveals that the cost of higher education for students varies dramatically in Europe. Tuition fees are highest in England, where students pay up to £9000 (around €11500) per academic year, while nine countries (Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Malta, Norway, UK (Scotland) and Sweden) do not charge fees in most cases.
Even though cost comparing and student mobility is encouraged by ESU, it thinks that more tuition fees is not the way Europe should head into as it directly leads to less accessible education. ESU would like to see an Europe wide sustainable student support system which creates equal chances for everyone to attain higher education without burdening people with debts (student loans) in an early stage of their lives.
‘No to loans’
However, the European Commission is now proposing a masters’ students loan facility within the Erasmus For All-programme framework which includes private banks offering loans to students instead of encouraging member states to strive for public support and the portability of the student support schemes that are already in place. ESU is strongly concerned that this loan scheme initiative will put students into a trap of a private debt while facing grim employment perspectives for young graduates all around the Europe. ESU’s members, national unions of students from 38 EHEA countries, oppose this Commission proposal.