New students who start at the University College in Maastricht next September, will have to pay not only their lecture fees, but also an extra contribution – called institutional fee – of 950 euros per year. UCM students are angry, especially about what they consider as a lack of clear communication.
It is not an increase of lecture fees, emphasises Louis Boon, dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Sciences under which the College falls. “We are asking new students who start in September 2011 to pay an extra contribution, an institutional fee. And that is not unusual; we are the only College in the Netherlands at the moment that does not charge anything extra. Amsterdam wants about 1.900 euros for institutional fees; we follow Utrecht with 950 euros.” We will use that money to fund grants for non-EU students. “It is practically impossible for them to do a programme at UCM. If we want to be an international academic community – about 20 per cent of our students should be from outside the EU and we by no means reach that – we have to generate means.”
But the university already awards grants, such as the High Potential Scholarship? “These are only for master’s students; I would guess that there are probably thirty for the entire university.”
Students are shocked about the new measure and the way in which it was communicated. They approached both the management and student fraction Dope last week. “The message was put on the UCM site during the exam week, would you believe. It was unclear whether the contribution would also apply to current first- and second-year students. Besides, the objective was very vague,” says Lukas Wetzel, law student and university council member on behalf of Dope. “Is it about five grants? Ten?” For most people, Wetzel reckons, the problem is not the money, but the procedure. “The students were not asked for their opinion.” In an e-mail to UCM dean Harm Hospers, who is abroad at the moment, a member of the UCM community (who does not want his name in the paper) writes: “UCM promotes itself as a community, a family. And now an important decision has been taken just like that.”
Boon: “They are looking for a stick to beat a dog. It is a sign of paranoia and suspicion, and I am glad that I am no longer responsible for these students. They, who say that they want the best for the world, are creating a fuss about 19 euros a week for non-EU students. I think that is the height of hypocrisy. We, together with the college, believe that this is a good way to generate extra money. And anyway, students have no say in this at all.”
Whether other faculties will also ask for an extra contribution in the future, Boon does not know, but “mark my words, paying for higher education will become a private issue more and more.”
A group of outraged UCM students met in the common room on Tuesday evening. They did not want their names in the paper. Boon had spoken to them earlier, but not all their objections were removed. The ‘action committee’, as they refer to themselves, will consider what to do next.