MAASTRICHT. The five full scholarships that University College Maastricht awards annually to students from outside the European Union is not going to disappear. In fact, UCM is making plans to expand its grants programme so that students within the EU can benefit from it too.
At the moment, UCM spends 350 thousand euro annually on a total of fifteen grants (five per study year) for non-EU students who have insufficient funds to pay for their studies in Maastricht. This amount will remain, says dean Mathieu Segers in a reaction to messages of concern on UCM's Facebook site: the grants were to go to University College Venlo, some said, or were even going to disappear completely. “For the moment, there is no information about our grants programme on the university's site because we are evaluating our policies with a view to optimising them. Can we use the amount more effectively? Also, can we increase it?”
The money for the grants is obtained partly from tuition fees paid by UCM students. They do not pay the legally determined amount of €1,984, but €3,280. Part of the extra contribution, introduced in 2012, is used to fund the grants programme, the remainder is used to pay for the additional expenses of the education programme. Liberal arts students elsewhere in the Netherlands also pay higher tuition fees: in Amsterdam it is €4,154, The Hague €4,119, Utrecht €3,770, and in Middelburg €2,984.
The extra contribution will not be raised, Segers emphasised. He is, however, looking for other sources to increase the amount that can be spent on grants. “We are all for accessibility and equal opportunities. Partly because of the introduction of the borrowing system for students, but also because of social factors, segregation in higher education is increasing. The gap between the haves and have-nots is widening. UCM has no control over many factors, but we will use the opportunities that we do have.”
What does he think about the criticism on Facebook that UCM is elitist and that they primarily take on youths from well-to-do families? “I don’t need a Facebook message to tell me that all of higher education is becoming elitist. But as far as UCM is concerned, there is no hard evidence to prove this at the moment.”
Segers expects to have clarity about the new grants programme before the summer of 2017. “This would then become effective in January 2018. Until then, we will continue as we have done in the past, with five scholarships every year.”