Between England and Germany, over one million people will be enrolling in universities this fall. However, in England, students will be paying the highest tuition fees in Europe while students in Germany will be paying absolutely nothing.
Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute published an analysis called, “Keeping up with the Germans?” After taking a look at the impact of the different funding systems between England and Germany, Hillman concluded that the biggest different is that there is a much smaller amount of people that attend university in Germany. Only about 27% of Germany’s young people complete university, compared to 48% in England.
Funding is a little different as well. Germany spends a little more of their GDP on higher education – they have more academic staff and are ahead in spending on research and development. While they receive public and private investing of 3% of GDP, the UK only has 1.7%.
UK universities may rank in the top of international league tables, but this is mainly because league tables do not include research institutes. In Germany, there is much more of a distinct separation between their teaching and research universities. Hillman claims that if Germany’s elite science institute, the Max Planck Society was included in global rankings, then it would beat out both Oxford and Cambridge.
Sure, it can be expensive for Europeans to go to university, especially in the UK, but the cost of going to university is still better than not going or even getting high-level vocational skills. The Higher Education Statistics Agency showed that graduate unemployment levels are back down to pre-recession levels at 2.6%. However, there are a rising number of graduates as well so this does not mean that more graduates do not have jobs.
The OECD has actually warned that the biggest risk is that young people will be competing for a smaller and smaller pool of unskilled work. The Pew research group, located in the US said that even though graduates had a more difficult time finding jobs during the recession, the real losers were the young people without any or few qualifications.
Going to university is more important than ever with 43% more people entering higher education in England and among women, it is a stunning 51%. We are in a time that education is an expectation, that demand will not go away and neither will the value of money for university.
So, who pays for Germany student’s free higher education? It is the taxpayer. How long will this system be able to expand and produce graduates? We shall see.