Higher Education in ‘Old Europe’ has had some pretty bad exposure again. Examples from Germany and France show that free education can be pretty costly. The Dutch ScienceGuide has a small item on an awkward German issue. Roughly translated and summarised:
Five lecturers for 3000 students in German Linguistics was not sufficient at Paderborn University. “One professor had been ill for a long time and another lectureship was discontinued” the students complained and they took matters in their own hands. They collected money and recruited a lecturer from Bielefeld. She responded: “Of course I can only do this because it is only a onetime solution and because I’m very flexible due to my half-time position in Bielefeld.” The executive board of the university has to check whether this complies with the university regulations. After the introduction of tuition fees next year (which was a controversial issue) both the university and the students hope for a more permanent solution.
This of course is a unique situation. The New York Times however, reports on the Nanterre campus of the University of Paris to illustrate the general situation in French higher education (except for the Grand Ecoles). Read for yourself and you’ll conclude that it’s not a pretty picture. In my view, the following passage best illustrates the cost of free education:
A second-year student in law and history complained about the lack of courses in English for students of international law. But asked whether he would be willing to pay a higher fee for better services, he replied: “The university is a public service. The state must pay.” A poster that hangs throughout the campus halls echoed that sentiment: “To study is a right, not a privilege.”
Of course, education is (to some extent) a ‘right’ that should be accessible regardless of class or status. But if free education can’t be sustained, high quality education seems to become a privilege for the few.