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Free tuition: European examples

While some European countries claim to have free university education, the fight to eliminate tuition fees in Canada rages on.

The idea of free tuition may not be one that works for Canada. One of the key reasons: enrollment rates.

Last year, Germany abolished tuition fees for students, and made public universities available for those who preferred a more economical education.

If you are an international student, there are additional fees you have to pay, but overall it is more affordable than tuition prices for international students in Canada.

In Germany, only 27 per cent of the youth population attend a post-secondary institution, compared to Canada’s 64 per cent — making Canada one of the most educated countries in the world.

Because the cost of education is on the state, and the state pays per student, free public universities in Germany have a limited number of applicants they can accept.

Entry to the schools are based on three main criteria:

  1. The student’s grade point average
  2. The major subject courses they took in secondary school
  3. Whether they have any vocational, professional or employment experience based on what they wish to study.

These requirements cause waiting lists, and it can take several semesters for some students to be accepted. Germany offers acceptance to those who have “waited the greatest number of semesters,” according to Freie Universität Berlin’s website.

While Canada could adopt this German model of decreasing admission numbers in order for the state to be able to pay for tuition, it would mean cutting the number of post-secondary students in Canada nearly in half.

So, Germany might not be the answer. How about Norway?

Norway is one of the richest countries in the world because of its oil and gas revenues, and pays for students’ education at all 20 of it’s accredited universities.

Of the success stories of making post-secondary education accessible to students, Norway is one of the leading examples.

But, 20 universities funded by one of the wealthiest countries in the world may prove to be a significantly easier task than funding Canada’s 98 universities.

There are 283,115 students enrolled in university in Norway compared to Canada’s 1.7 million students.

While free tuition for post-secondary institutions could be a very real possibility for Canada, there has yet to be a successful example of how Canada could implement it without significantly lowering acceptance quotas or decreasing the number of the universities across the country.



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