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EUC Travel Award for research on tuition fee disputes in Germany

September 6, 2016

UW Political Science PhD student, Jonathan Beck, was recently awarded the Jean Monnet Chair EU Graduate Research Grant from the EU Center (EUC) for a two-week research project in Berlin, Germany. Beck traveled to Berlin in order to explore the question “Why have students in Germany been so relatively successful in their fight against tuition fees, whereas students in other countries have struggled even to freeze tuition growth?” While in Berlin, he conducted interviews and searched archives; his goal was to determine if coalitions between students, social, and government groups added to the success of the student activists’ movement for tuition free universities in Germany.

Beck says the grant awarded by the EUC truly helped his research. Being on the ground in Berlin allowed him to travel directly to organizational headquarters and to visit the archives housed in the universities where student representatives worked. “I acquired a number of newsletters dating back to the height of the movement against tuition fees,” Beck wrote, continuing to say, “[The archives] are physical treasure troves of data”. These treasures included ideological pieces on the importance of the fight for low cost education and even debates among member groups about internal divisions within the freier zusammenchluss von studentenschaftinnen (fzs) – an umbrella organization that is host to many different parties and groups that make up the student-led movement.  Beyond the archives, the interviews were notably of assistance to Beck’s work. “In particular, [one] interview brought clarity to the extent to which ‘movement’ activities are dispersed and decentralized across federal states, not unlike similar organizations and activities in the United States.” This collaboration and decentralization, according to Beck, helps us understand why by 2014 there was not a single public university in Germany charging tuition.

Though Beck intends to travel back to Berlin to continue his work, he feels greatly impacted by this first trip. “Perhaps most significantly in the immediate term, my fieldwork in Berlin has challenged and improved my theories and refined my understanding of my own contribution to the literature.” He is looking forward to continuing this work, as he has lingering questions surrounding the shape and impact of the movement. “Although the data seem to indicate that most activities are domestic and local rather than transnational, the political goals and sense of political identity seem to transcend domestic borders. What this means and how this works remains the focus of my research moving forward.”

For further information about EU Center Travel Grants, contact: