Semesterticket - What exactly is it?

With the current vote on reintroducing the semester ticket, student mobility has once again become a major topic of discussion. It raises the question of what exactly the semester ticket is.


At first glance, it appears to be merely a travel pass allowing students to use public transportation at their study location for a semester, i.e., six months. However, its unique aspect lies in its original concept. The constituted student body – the Student Parliament and the AStA – negotiates a semester ticket contract with the relevant transport association. Normally, the student body has a significant negotiating position as it represents a large number of students who potentially need mobility to get to the university. Hence, the idea of the semester ticket is that almost all students buy a ticket in solidarity, enabling the transport association to offer tickets at a price lower than those sold freely. The calculation for the transport association is that not all students will use their ticket and that the administrative effort lies with the universities. Therefore, the fee for the semester ticket is always collected during re-registration. Another point of the so-called solidarity model of the semester ticket is that students facing particular financial difficulties or hardships can receive a subsidy, making the ticket slightly cheaper for them. To cover this subsidy, there is a social fund contribution, also collected each semester.


TU Berlin has had a semester ticket since the summer semester of 2002. The original ticket cost €109 per semester (€18.17 per month), then under the aspect of revenue neutrality for the VBB, meaning the ticket was not intended to generate profit. However, it became apparent to the transport association that student revenues are secure, as students need mobility and are therefore unlikely to cancel their semester ticket. To increase revenue, the price of the semester ticket was progressively raised over the years. The original concept of negotiation between the student body and the transport association was thus countered, and the VBB’s offer became more dictatorial with the motto “take it or leave it”. Consequently, negotiations with the VBB became a thing of the past. Increasingly, the Berlin Senate became involved, and with much effort and lobbying of politicians, the price was partially capped through subsidies.

With the Germany-wide semester ticket, the principle of negotiation has been rendered completely absurd, as there is only a fixed offer, i.e., 60% of the price of the Germany-wide ticket, which can be accepted or not.


This is the highest price that, according to expert opinions, is legally justifiable within the solidarity model. This offer is mainly made because it is better for the transport associations to offer this semester ticket than if many students only bought a normal Germany-wide ticket for a few months of the semester. Moreover, VBB shows no willingness to negotiate tickets outside of a Germany-wide semester ticket, such as a cheap Berlin ABC ticket with bicycle transport. Thus, the original thought of the cheapest mobility for students has become history.