University College was said to be a trial: Maastricht University is considering whether to ask students who do certain studies for an additional contribution, on top of their lecture fees. Because government funding is decreasing, the money has to come from somewhere else, if the UM wants to continue providing high-quality education, they argue.
After an official memo on the pros and cons of such an additional tuition fee and the obligations set by law – the contribution must be voluntary – the plan was discussed by the education, research and internationalisation committee of the university council, at the end of October, the UCM website stated a few days later that the measure was to be introduced in September 2011. It was exam week and the message was: anyone coming to study at the College next year will have to pay 950 euros extra per year, over and above the lecture fees. The money would be used to pay for grants for non-EU students and to maintain or improve the quality of education. There was no mention of the voluntary nature.
Student members of the university council committee turn out to be outraged about the rapid introduction; because they assumed that the topic was to be discussed again.
UCM students are also displeased with the publication. They speak of messy communication and an undemocratic decision-making process. An action committee is set up (Action Committee for Accessible Education). UCM student Sven Richters: “We are worried about the accessibility of education, about the exclusion of those who are not well off.”
In an attempt to disperse the unrest and to clarify matters, Louis Boon (because UCM dean Harm Hospers is abroad) sent a four-page e-mail to the students. It is then Thursday, 4 November. He states that the liberal arts programme is intensive and therefore expensive.
On Tuesday, 9 November, the plan proves to have been temporarily shelved. But the students are still divided on the matter. The UCM action committee voices its opinion against the fee as such. For the Dope and Novum student fractions in the university council, it depends on what is done with the money. If it is for grants, okay, but not for quality improvements for education, unless the UCM students approve this. What they do agree upon is that the Executive Board must stress that the fee is voluntary.