Tuition fees was one of the central and ever recurring topics in the Global Perspectives Programme 2012. However, tuition fees are not only relevant for access to higher education, but also for the relation between society and university and therefore for this year’s GPP. Additionally, when students from the US and Switzerland meet to discuss whichever higher education issue, they almost inevitably find themselves discussing tuition fees one time or another, since the differences are so incredibly huge.
In Europe, we can see a general trend to increase (or even introduce, as in some German Bundesländer) tuition fees. I have been reporting in an earlier post about the plans of the ETH and EPFL to considerably increase their fees. The University of Lucerne now opposes this trend. At the moment, tuition in Lucerne amounts to 1400 Swiss Francs (a bit more than 1400 USD) for students coming from Switzerland and 2000 Swiss Francs for students from abroad. The Government of the Canton Lucerne now imposed political pressure on the university to increase tuition. However, the university resisted and decided to keep fees as they are right now. As compensation, the university now charges a one time enrollment fee of 100 Swiss Francs. Further, professors agreed to get an increase in their salary half a year later.
In an interview with a local radio station, Rektor Paul Richli named two reasons. First, he deems it important to safeguard equal opportunities to access higher education. Second, he wants the University of Lucerne to remain competitive with other universities. While the first line of argument is somewhat obvious, the second it is remarkable insofar as it provides further evidence of a growing awareness of a shift to a more competitive higher education landscape also in continental Europe.