THE NETHERLANDS. In the hot-from-the-press Dutch coalition agreement, political parties have agreed that first-year students will receive a 1,000-euro tuition fee reduction. Will universities have to pick up the tab?
With this discount for the first study year, the parties want to keep higher education accessible for students who have little money and who are unsure if they are capable of completing the programme.
This means that university revenues will plummet. “One would think so,” says UM spokesperson Gert van Doorn, “but it is too early to anticipate on this. We ourselves don't know yet what exactly is going to happen. Maybe universities will be compensated. Or the scheme will be introduced in phases. We will wait and see.”
The increasing inequality of opportunities in education was the most explosive subject in recent years. The introduction of the loan system was deemed to have made it more difficult for certain groups of students to take the step to higher education. Indeed, in the first year after the abolishing of the basic grant – a standard amount for everyone - fewer youths took on a study. In the following year, this straightened itself out somewhat and this year too, more youths embarked on a study.
Abolishing the basic grant met with fierce resistance from the two national student unions LSVb and ISO, who went to The Hague with their supporters to protest. ISO refers to the lowering of the tuition fees by a thousand euro as “pure symbol politics”. LSVb referred to it as “something paid for out of one's own pocket”.
After all, students are providing the funding themselves. The interest on student loans is going up and according to calculations by the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB), this will bring in two hundred million euro: the exact amount that the parties need to reduce tuition fees.