01.10.2006

“We live here now!” – Students occupy Rektorat in a reaction to tuition fees

Bielefeld University is one of 27 universities in NRW to introduce tuition fees at the start of the 2006/2007 winter semester. The state government of North Rhine-Westphalia has passed legislation to allow for the introduction tuition fees of up to 500 euros per semester. It leaves, however, the decision on the implementation of fees and the final amount to the discretion of the individual universities. At many universities there is massive resistance from the student body. Bielefeld University too experiences huge student protests in the run up to the fees’ introduction, including weeks of student occupation of the Rektorat corridor in the University’s main building.  

Poster of the Action Alliance on Tuition Fees, April 2005.

Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, PL 1/260

In spring 2006, Bielefeld opponents of the tuition fees occupied the premises of the Rektorat following a Senate session in the Audimax and camped out, among other places, in the office of Rektor Professor Dr. Dieter Timmermann. In addition, some parts of the University were vandalized and a member of the security staff had a master key stolen in a tussle.

The Rektorat regarded the additional funding from tuition fees as a means to improve the quality of studies and teaching. Despite all protests, the Senate of Bielefeld University decided on 13 July 2006 to introduce tuition fees. At the same time, they introduced a staggered system of payment. This meant that the longer a student had been enrolled at the University, the less they would have to pay, as they would profit less from the improvements in study and teaching than first-year students.

  • Two posters hang on the façade of the Rektor’s wing, March 2006.

    Photo: Norma Langohr
    Source: Universität Bielefeld
  • Protest camp against tuition fees in the Main University Hall, March 2006

    Photo: Norma Langohr
    Source: Universität Bielefeld
  • Information wall in front of the occupied Rektorat, March 2006.

    Photo: Norma Langohr
    Source: Universität Bielefeld
  • View into the barricaded corridor of the Rektorat, March 2006.

    Photo: Norma Langohr
    Source: Universität Bielefeld

After just one year, however, the staggered tuition fee system had to be revised. As part of a landmark lawsuit filed by a student to contest her tuition fees, the administrative court in Münster ruled that the staggered system violated the principle of equality. In response, the Senate of the University passed a new statute on tuition fees whereby every student was required to pay the same amount of 350 euros.

Tuition fees in North Rhine-Westphalia were abolished after a change of government in the winter semester of 2011/12.

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