Why do I have to pay long-term study fees?
On 3 April 2003, the Thuringian State Parliament decided to introduce long-term study fees changing the Thuringian Higher Education Act (ThürHG). According to it, the Thuringian institutions of higher education are expected to check obligations to pay and, if necessary, request payment of the fee during enrolment or re-registration. Long-term study fees are due if students exceed a specific number of university semesters. This does not depend on the subjects being studied, but merely on the period during which studying takes place at German institutions of higher education. If the standard time of study for an initial professional qualification is exceeded by 4 semesters, the student then has to pay €500 for every additional semester. The same rule applies to consecutive study programmes consisting of a bachelor’s and master’s degree. However, exceptions may be requested. Information, templates, and forms for your current situation can be found below.
Charging fees is in accordance with the section 4 of the ThürHGEG.
With the promulgation of the ThürCorPanG Article 14 § 9 and Article 19 on June 24, 2020, the following adjustments were made ex officio for each student individually and without application: Non-crediting of the 2020 summer semester due to the corona pandemic. In addition, the obligation to pay fees for SS 2020 was waived for students who were already subject to fees before SS 2020 or who became subject to fees for the first time in SS 2020. The students concerned were informed of this by email on June 23, 2020.
With the promulgation of the 2nd ThürCorPanG Article 6 § 9 on March 31, 2021, the long-term study fee for the winter semester 2020/21 and the summer semester 2021 will be waived. All affected students will receive a corresponding email with the refund form. It was also decided that for students enrolled in a degree program in the 2020/2021 winter semester or in the 2021 summer semester and not on leave of absence, an individual standard period of study that deviates from the standard period of study and is extended by one semester for each of these semesters applies. This new regulation may also have an impact on the obligation to pay long-term tuition fees.
With the announcement of the ThürCorHVO on February 18, 2022, it was again decided to extend the individual standard period of study for all students enrolled in the winter semester 2021/22 and not on leave of absence. This can have an impact on long-term study fees. In addition, the long-term study fee for the winter semester 2021/22 will be waived. Affected students will receive an e-mail notification in the 8th calendar week.
- What standard duration of study is decisive?
The standard duration of study is determined according to the relevant examination regulations or regulations for registration of the current study programme.
- The total standard duration of study is the determining factor on consecutive study programmes leading to a bachelor’s degree, Baccalaureate degree, master’s degree or Magister degree.
- If a student enrols for two or more study programmes at the same time (parallel studies) then the study programme with the longest standard duration of study is taken into account.
- What applies for a second undergraduate study programme?
In the case of a further undergraduate study programme after a completed degree, the standard duration of study for the first undergraduate study programme and the second must be combined if:
- completing both study programmes is necessary to comply with professional regulations to acquire the intended vocational qualification.
- a final grade of the first undergraduate study programme that is far above the average of the graduation year is proven.
If a student enrols for two or more study programmes simultaneously, the fee must only be paid for one of them, namely for the one with the longer standard duration of study.
- When is a final grade “far above average”?
The final grade must be among the top 20% of all final grades of the relevant graduation year.
A graduation year comprises all students of the relevant study programme who graduated between 1 October and 30 September of the following year (i.e. academic year/year of study).
- What standard duration of study applies in examination regulations with a separate examination semester?
Provided that examination regulations stipulate a standard duration of study without examination periods, you should apply another term for standard duration of study which is stricter than the one defined in the ThürHG. The decisive factor is therefore not what examination regulations set out as the standard duration of study, but what corresponds to the legal definition instead, i.e. the standard duration of study frequently includes examination periods.
- What is taken into account regarding the fee-free study period?
When defining the fee-free study period, all study periods at German institutions of higher education within the scope and application of the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz, GG) are taken into consideration. However, there some exceptions: neither a change of study programme until the completion of the second semester is taken into account nor a leave of absence. Due to the corona pandemic, the 2020 summer semester will also not count towards the fee-free period if you were enrolled at a university in the 2020 summer semester and there was no leave of absence.
- Which institutions of higher education are not covered by the scope and application of the Basic Law?
There are: study periods at public administration colleges, foreign institutions of higher education, and institutions of higher education in the former German Democratic Republic. In the case of private/non-public institutions of higher education and professional academies, demanding issues of definition must be clarified first.
- Are study periods abroad taken into account?
- Generally, study periods spent abroad before the beginning of one’s studies in Germany are not taken into account.
- Students who complete one or more semesters at foreign institutions of higher education as part of their studies at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena must apply for a leave of absence. Otherwise, those semesters are added up to the other semesters as full semesters when calculating the fee-free period of study.
- When the fee must not be paid?
Students must not pay the fee for the periods in which they are on leave of absence, and for the semesters in which they receive the benefits in accordance with the Federal Act on Support for Education and Training (Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz, BAföG).
- Are there any reasons that may lead to deadlines being extended?
The obligation to pay may be postponed, upon formal request, for the times:
- of taking care and bringing up children, however, up to a max. of reaching a double standard length of study programme,
- of taking care for close relatives if you provide valid reasons, however, up to a max. of reaching a double standard length of study programme, and
- active involvement in university committees to a max. of two semesters if these are not added to the standard length of study programme in line with the examination regulations.
- Which children are taken into account?
You may request a leave of absence for childcare for your own children, foster children, and stepchildren or grandchildren living in your household. The regulations are based on the BAföG.
- Which parent is entitled to an extension of the fee-free study period?
Generally, the extension is available to both parents provided that they live with the child in the same household.
- Which university committees are taken into account, what is an “active participation” and may I prove it?
These are the university bodies defined in the Thuringian Higher Education Act, e.g. Senate, faculty councils, and the student representative bodies (student council, student representatives). If you are member of a committee for least one year, one semester may be recognized; if your membership lasts at least two years, you are granted two semesters. Your proof should be provided in a suitable manner, for example as a certificate issued by the committee management.
- May the fee be waived or reduced?
In cases of undue hardship, the fee can be partially or fully waived. These are the examples of undue hardship:
- consequences of an impairment, of a chronic illness or severe illness that affect the duration of a study period
- consequences of being a victim of a crime
- a serious financial crisis during the final period of your studies, i.e. the final examination
- How can I prove that an impairment/illness/result of a crime justifies an extension of the times of study?
To start with, the disability etc. must be primarily causal. This means that other reasons (e.g. changing courses, re-sitting examinations) must not have led to the extension of studies. Delaying studies must therefore exist for a prolonged period. Medical reports must confirm the exact duration of the disability. Furthermore, they should present the reasons and the degree to which the ability to study was affected or not possible clearly. What is important is that a doctor—or a therapist if necessary, identify a specific restriction in the capacity to study. Sweeping statements mean it is not possible to determine a personal extension of the course from a disability etc.
- Should the fees also be paid for an examination semester?
As the fee-free period is calculated based on the standard duration of study in which all examination periods are contained, an examination semester, which takes place after the fee-free period has elapsed, is generally subject to payment of fees.
- What does “during the final part of studies, i.e. the final examination” mean?
A sweeping statement is not possible due to the varied, different examination procedures in Diplom, Magister, and state examination study programmes. In individual cases, the specific examination process should be checked based on the relevant examination regulations to see which part of the examination can be defined as the “final” one. If this part is in a semester for which an application was submitted to waive the fee, it can be considered as suitably close. In the case of bachelor’s programmes and master's programmes, the time aspect of the financial hardship rule is only applicable for the semester in which the final thesis is both written and submitted.
- When may a “financial hardship” be assumed?
For single students living in their own household (independent of parents) and are liable for contributions in the public health and long-term care insurance system, the highest support cap as per BAföG can be seen as the upper limit. If resources are available that do not exceed this limit, then financial hardship—provided that no other assets are available—can be assumed. For single students who still live with their parents and/or are not liable for contributions in the public health and long-term care insurance system, the correspondingly reduced rates as per BAföG are applied. In the case of needs-based communities (students with children and/or spouses), no fixed income limits have been applied up to the present. Financial hardship should be determined in accordance with specific circumstances in individual cases.
- Will the fee be waived due to the corona pandemic?
The government has decided to waive the long-term study fees for the summer semester 2020, winter semester 2020/21 and the summer semester 2021. A refund form was sent to the affected students.
On February 18, 2022, a fee waiver for the winter semester 2021/22 was decided.