ECJ brightens financial perspectives for students abroad


The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on 23 October that German law is violating the principle of freedom of movement for EU citizens by providing student grants only to those who have completed an initial course of study in their home country. 

Two German students who were attending university in Great Britain and the Netherlands had taken action against their district governments for having refused to give them a grant. The grants had been refused on the grounds that the classes were not a continuation of courses pursued for at least one year in Germany, as prescribed by federal law. 

But, according to the court, this continuity is disproportionate, as it may prevent students from pursuing education or training in another member state different from their home country. 

The court also dismissed the German district governments’ argument that financial assistance should only be given to students who have demonstrated a certain degree of integration into society. According to the court, first-stage studies are not necessarily representative of the degree of integration into a society. 

The ECJ recalled that although member states are competent to determine the content of teaching and the organisation of their respective education systems, that competence must be exercised in compliance with Community law and, in particular, with the principle of freedom of movement for EU citizens. The court ruled that the preconditions that are set by German law create an unjustified restriction on freedom of movement. 

The Court of Justice had already convicted Germany of breaching free movement law in a different case in September. In that case, it ruled that Germany had violated the principle of free movement by means of its tax law rules, which limited a tax deduction for private education to cases where children were sent to private schools on German territory, or to German or European schools outside its territory. 

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