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“It’s an investment in yourself”

Debate on who pays for higher education

“Low tuition fees make students lazy.” With statements like this, Wim Groot, professor of Evidence Based Education, didn’t make himself very popular at the Science Café The future of higher education; who pays?, organised by student party Novum and Studium Generale last Tuesday.

The evening kicked off with the question whether higher education is a civil right or a privilege. Groot claimed it’s neither. “It’s a commodity, an investment in yourself. It’s very profitable; you’ll gain a high return. The demand for highly skilled people has increased more than the demand for lower skilled people.” Harm Hospers, dean of the University College Maastricht, disagreed, saying “these figures are all averages. You can’t guarantee an 18-year old that he’ll get his investment back.” Allan Päll, chair of the European Student Union, argued that university doesn’t always provide you with the skills wanted by employees. “You don’t just need a degree, but also competencies.”

Later, moderator Herman Kingma, chair of the University Council, put student mobility on the agenda. In the Netherlands there’s a discussion going on about who should pay for foreign students. Joost van der Akker, vice chair of the VVD faction in the Provincial Parliament of Limburg, is in favour of “harmonisation of the tuition fees. This’ll stop students from university shopping.” Päll and Hospers agreed, adding that also a harmonisation of credits would be welcomed. Groot, however, said he “is allergic to an ‘EU solution’. Low tuition fees make students lazy. When the tuition fees go up, students make better motivated choices and they work harder.” Also, he thought going to a university because of the low tuition fees is an “invalid reason”. This produced a lot of protest from the audience. Several people came forward to explain how their choice of study programme was not financially driven. As one German student said: “I even paid more to come here, I could have gone to an excellent university in my own country and paid less.”

 

Cleo Freriks

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