Massive Tuition Increase Ahead for foreign PhD Students
The increase is a drastic change. Before the new year, a foreign PhD candidate faced tuition fees of 2,500 guilders for 4 years. Candidates beginning in 1995 will pay 500 guilders per month up to a maximum of 5,000 guilders per year. Over four years a candidate will need to pay approximately 20,000 guilders to the University for the opportunity to do a PhD here," explains Rector Professor Karssen. He pointed out that this decision will not apply to candidates who began their research before 1995, nor to candidates who are AiO's (salaried PhD researchers) or those following the Sandwich PhD programme at WAU. Professor Karssen also mentioned that changing the status of Dutch PhD researchers from paid employees of the university to students is currently under discussion.
According to Mr. van Heijst of the Office for International Relations at the WAU, this decision directly affects those candidates who come with outside funding or fellowships. This past year we had 27 PhD candidates from abroad, of whom approximately half were under neither the AiO nor Sandwich programme. If those same people were to begin this year, they would face 20,000 guilders in tuition costs. There may be only 2 people with the means to pay."
The seven scientific sisters of the WAU - the Graduate schools - enjoy a prestigious pioneering role in agricultural research. Experimental Plant Sciences (EPS) ranks among the best research centres in Europe for biotechnology. Professor Jacobsen, Director of EPS, attributes the quality of the research to the fact that excellent candidates come from around the world. I make contact with several candidates myself when their research activities are important for us. We discuss the possibility of coming to Wageningen. There may be a long term negative effect from such a drastic tuition increase because the students who would not be eligible for fellowships and funding - those who would have to borrow money to study here - may be scared away. We may see a reduction in the students from North American and European countries." Mr.Van Heijst also wonders if the impact of such an increase will mean that in the coming years there will be fewer students who complete the PhD programme he
Those students who do qualify for funding from agencies other than the WAU, will simply need to request more money. Mr.Van Heijst is concerned whether those agencies will be capable of affording such an increase. Funding agencies range from private companies to the European Community to development cooperation ministries of individual governments. For example, some candidates from the developing countries are funded by a project in their own country which is supported by the Dutch or German government."
Development cooperation would then in some cases be the final pot from which the money would come to meet the tuition increase at WAU. It is food for thought that the university, in difficult economic times, may seek to circumvent education cutbacks through the wallets of funding bodies such as development cooperation. The greater debate includes whether a funding source such as development cooperation is capable or willing to carry such a burden while facing their own restraints.
The Office for International Relations believes that the decision to radically increase tuition fees stems from an attempt to standardize the WAU foreign student tuition policy with that of other western Universities. The tuition fees at British and American Universities are very high and this is probably an action to make Wageningen more comparable with those international competitors," according to Van Heijst.
Marietta Spiekerman, Policy Advisor on International Relations to the Executive Board of the Delft Technical University, was of the opinion that (a) tuition increase in Wageningen could be seen as a step towards a more commercial approach to research. This decision puts Wageningen on par with British and American Universities which are quite commercially oriented. Here in Delft the admission of a PhD student is based entirely on the academic qualifications of the candidate, not on their financial capabilities. Our PhD students are considered personnel of the University and we don't collect any tuition fees from them."
The Graduate Schools of WAU take pride in the quality research undertaken by candidates from around the world. In the future however, academic qualifications may be sacrificed for financial qualifications. It remains to be seen whether the pressure transferred to independent funding agencies will result in fewer foreign PhD candidates at WAU, or whether these developments will see business and other external agencies playing a more significant role in WAU's future research programmes.