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Tuition Rate Increases: How It's Happened Outside the US

May 2, 2011 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Tuition is rising dramatically at US universities. This year, the average tuition increase is somewhere around 4.5%--much higher than the 2.1% inflation rate reported in February of 2011. Many colleges and universities have increased tuition dramatically in the past three years or so as a result of the global economic crisis.

In 2010, the problem was particularly acute for public universities, many of which are facing major cuts in funding at the state level. For example, the University of California estimated they’d have to increase tuition by 30% for the 2010-2011 academic year; and the Universities of Florida, Washington, and Nevada estimate tuition increases of 10-15%.

It’s happening overseas, too. Many European countries that have traditionally offered free university education have instituted fees and tuition for upcoming academic years. Students and critics have objected strenuously, but the tuition rates in Europe still seem small compared to those in the US.

It’s possible that strong protests come as a result of the fact that for those used to a free education, even a small tuition requirement can seem like a huge jump. In the US, a 4.5% increase might not seem like much in comparison with the overall cost of a US education—but don’t let the single-digit number fool you. Since 1982, college costs have risen by a staggering 439%.

If that happened all at once, you would think there would be riots in the streets. And you could be right. In the UK, the government nearly tripled university fees recently—and there were protests, some of which turned violent. Here’s an overview of how other countries have handled implementation of rising tuition costs—and the reaction of the public.

Graduation Cap and Canadian Dollar

With the current economic crisis affecting universities all over the world, it’s possible that free college tuition will become a thing of the past.




In the past, college tuition was entirely funded by the government in England. However, in 1998, the government began allowing UK universities to charge tuition of up to £1,000. Since then, the amount of the allowed fees has gone up steadily. The largest jump, however, happened recently—with fee limits nearly tripling from £3,290 in 2010 / 2011 to £9,000 in 2012.

This has not gone over well with students. In 2010, students staged marches to protest the rise in fees. Some of the protests turned violent, with students attacking the Conservative party headquarters and even a car carrying Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla. In a subsequent protest, a total of 41 people were arrested and 11 were injured.


In some provinces in Canada, universities and colleges are allowed to increase their tuition only by 5% per year. Other provinces have frozen tuition hikes for universities in their area—but that trend is becoming more rare. In the 2010/2011 academic year, undergraduate students paid an average of 4% more for college tuition than they did in the previous year—an increase over the previous year’s tuition rise of 3.6%. That’s significantly higher than inflation in Canada, which rose 1.8% between 2009 and 2010.

Still, that’s significantly higher than what US students are used to paying. The average undergraduate in Canada paid $5,138 in tuition—compared to the average undergraduate tuition of $27,293 per year at private colleges and between $7,605 and $11,990 per year for public institutions.

United Arab Emirates

In the UAE, the government provides free public education from kindergarten to university level. However, there is also a thriving industry of private education—and the government does not impose any restrictions on the tuition private colleges can charge. Many private universities charge within the $15,000-$20,000 range—making private college tuition comparable to private tuition in the US.

Recently, that lack of restriction has led to dramatic increases at some of the country’s private universities. In 2010, many universities instituted dramatic increases—some by as much as double the previous year’s. The American University of Sharjah boosted tuition by 12% in 2010, raising tuition to approximately $19,869 in US dollars. While students weren’t happy, colleges defended the tuition increases—saying they were a necessary result of the global economic crisis.


Before 2005, all university education in Germany was free. That year, however, the conservative German government began allowing colleges to charge tuition of up to €500 per semester. Leading up to the tuition increases, there were many years of student demonstrations and lawsuits, some claiming tuition fees violate German constitutional law.

More recently, the German government has begun to consider allowing colleges to charge tuition at market rates—similar to the US system. Proponents of the increases claim that they would provide much-needed revenue allowing colleges to improve their degree programs and campuses—making them more competitive in a wider European and international market.


Until recently, Sweden’s universities were free for all, including international students. However, the government recently passed tuition rises of up to 14,000 Swedish krona—that’s up to $12,699—for students from outside the EU or EAA in the 2011 academic year.

Critics of the tuition increases fear that they will reduce the number of top talent attracted to Swedish universities. As a result of the tuition hikes, it’s possible that more international students will choose to go to universities in Norway, which still offers a free education to all.

With the current economic crisis affecting universities all over the world, it’s possible that free college tuition will become a thing of the past. The consequences of this will undoubtedly both be positive and negative, although it’s impossible to say what the global effect will be in the long run. Still, we can only hope that colleges all over the world will retain a commitment to delivering a quality college education to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay.


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