AMSTERDAM – Registrations for studies in higher education are expected to rise twenty per cent in the Netherlands in the upcoming academic year when compared to the present one and a survey among high school students indicates that more students plan to rush their university studies due to controversial educational reforms planned by the Dutch government.
The reforms include major cuts to the grant system for students in the Netherlands and abolishment of student benefits, such as free access to public transportation. LSVb and ISO, the national unions of students in the Netherlands, and the European Students´ Union (ESU) have protested this policy of the Dutch government fiercely.
The reforms in a nutshell
Basic student grants amount to 272 euros a month in the Netherlands, making higher education fairly accessible. However, the government plans to cut the grants so that more students would have to pay for their studies with loans. Students believe that the reforms may limit severely access to higher education if they are carried through putting an unjustified debt on the shoulders of future generations.
“Research has showed us that if these plans continue, students will lose twenty to forty per cent of their income. More than two thirds of the students think they will have to work more to avoid getting into more debt. However, Dutch students already work 11,3 hours on average per week in addition to their studies and more work could have a negative impact on study results,” says Marjolein Koster, spokesperson of LSVb.
Additionally, travelling costs will not only increase due to the government´s plan to cut student discounts for public transportation but also housing costs as there will be more demand for housing that is close to universities. Moreover, study choices might be negatively affected by changes to public transportation rules as students might become keener on choosing studies closer to their hometowns rather than the ones they really want.
Numerous negative effects on education
The Dutch Parliament is expected to discuss a bill that details these reforms this summer. Therefore, they might affect students in the academic year 2014 to 2015, depending on when the new regulations come into force.
“These reforms would only affect the accessibility of higher education, enhance social inequality and increase the commodification of the system. We are afraid that studying may become limited to the elite of the society again, while it should be a public good, and that students will make decisions based on economic factors instead of following their ambitions. The Netherlands should be a knowledge economy, but these plans make it impossible,” Koster emphasises.
Students campaign against the reforms
LSVb has engaged in active discussions with the Dutch political parties since the government’s plan was introduced. A report was also written together with Koen Geeven, a former Chairperson of ESU, which details the possible effects that these plans could have on higher education.
On Monday 27 May, LSVb representatives met Jet Bussemaker, the Dutch Minister for Education, to hand her over six thousand postcards written by students opposing the reforms.
“We were happy that the Minister was enthusiastic and willing to discuss the issues, but we disagreed with her on how difficult it is for students to repay the loans. Not all university graduates get high salaries and we fear that people might not go into higher education because they want to avoid going into debt,” Koster says.
The postcards started with "Lieve Jet", addressing Jet Bussemaker the Dutch Minister for Education. Photos/LSVb
The Prime Minister Mark Rutte also greeted students.
Students were happy with the discussion they had with the Minister, but they nevertheless disagreed on core issues.
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