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UCM wants higher lecture fees

University College Maastricht wants to drastically raise lecture fees for EU students from September 2012. This is because otherwise the quality of education can no longer be maintained, says the management of UCM.

The intended increase amounts to 1,200 euros per year, on top of the regular lecture fees for EU students of 1,700 euros. The proposal reminds one of a previous attempt last year, asking students for a voluntary contribution of 900 euros. That attempt, set up in great haste by the Executive Board and using the UCM as a test case, failed after protests from students and university councils. This time it is different, says Veronika Brantová, UCM student and a member of the university council for Novum: “Communication is much better, the students are informed properly, but there are still a lot of questions and objections, in particular about the accessibility of the study programme.”

A crucial difference compared with the previous plan is that there will soon be a legal possibility to raise lecture fees, instead of just asking for a voluntary contribution. This does require official permission from the Minister of Education, which the UCM and three other University Colleges (Leiden, Amsterdam, Utrecht) will apply for. The other colleges have been charging a contribution on top of the regular lecture fees for some time; in Amsterdam, this amounts to more than 2,000 euros.

That is also a reason for UCM to proceed with the increase, says Vice Dean for Academic Affairs Teun Dekker: “They are our competitors and they have much more money than we do.”

It is expected that this new income will at least neutralise the pending cuts of 200,000 per year and thus guarantee the quality of the UCM. The UCM is more expensive than other institutes, partly because the building is open until midnight during the week, they have dozens of Academic Advisors and a wide range of courses that will always be given, even if only a few students have enrolled.

But the UCM also wants to fund new initiatives. According to a memo from the UCM management, the raise will provide an additional structural income of approximately 650,000 euros each year after its introduction in 2015. The UCM wants to use part of these funds to pay for grants for poor students (the aim is to create a fund of three hundred thousand euros), but also to appoint an alumni officer. Student association Universalis will also receive more money. Dekker: “At the moment, they get 3,500 euros a year, while their counterpart in Utrecht receive something like 70,000.”

Dekker does not expect the higher lecture fees to cause a decline in enrolments: “This did not happen in Utrecht either. And you should not be cheaper than your competitors, as people might be inclined to think that Maastricht cannot be very good.”

No matter what, there will be a dispensation (waiver) for students who cannot come up with the 2,900 euros in lecture fees in whatever way.

The UCM’s proposal still needs to be discussed in the FHS faculty council and in the university council.

 

Wammes Bos

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