From the November 13 - 19, 2016 four honorable South African Academics working in the education sector had the opportunity to participate in a Study Tour on ‘Higher Education Financing’ in Berlin, Germany.
Considering that Germany offers free Higher Education and also has an abundance of scholarships to offer, this topic was especially of interest because of the ongoing #FeesMustFall movement, in which scholars were fighting to make education cheaper and therewith more accessible especially for the financially disadvantaged students.
Overall, eleven academics from Africa were invited for the tour of which four were from South Africa. These were Ms. Connie September, Chairperson of the Committee on Higher Education and Training, Prof. Tshifhiwa Victor Mabuda, Lawyer at the Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education, Prof. Adam Habib, Vice Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand and Prof. Narend Baijnath, Chairman of the Council on Higher Education.
The focus of the tour was to mainly inform the guests about public versus private financing, the configuration of fees, the funding of universities in the federal system as well as the funding of students with the help of scholarships and loans.
Considering that all participants of the event were from Africa an additional focus was put on the academic cooperation with African states and universities.
A diverse programme was offered to cover all the previously named topics and give the participants the possibility to ask questions on the subject and discuss it with each other.
An evaluation of the tour revealed that especially the discussion with a representative from the Institute of Education and Socio-Economic Research and Consulting on higher education financing in the 21st century as well as the visit to the European School of Management and Technology (ESMT) where the subject innovative financing models of private universities was presented, were of great value for the participants.
Of high liking was also the visit at the German Ministry of Education and Research. Here the structure of higher education funding and excellence initiative as well as details of and conditions for awarding student grants where clarified.
Additional programme points such as a meeting with the German Rectors’ Conference and the dialogue with a representative from the Albrecht Daniel Thaer-Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences gave insight into the accreditation of courses of study and opportunities for cooperation with African universities.
Besides the highly informative events, several cultural programme points were offered such as visiting the East-Side-Gallery and the memorial of the Berlin Wall. The participants of this eventful week were able to collect and come back with thorough insight into the German Higher Education Financing System, including scholarships and loans in Germany and were also able discuss further academic cooperation.
The Visitors Programme of the Federal Republic of Germany enables foreign opinion formers to personally gain an authentic, current, varied image of Germany. On invitation of the Foreign Office, the visitors spend a week in Germany. Within these few days participants have a packed agenda with tailored appointments. Annually around a 1000 high-ranking personalities from journalism, the arts, politics, economics, science and civil society are afforded the opportunity to imprint their Germany image abroad.