News - June 2, 2011

Debate to start all over again in Dutch Senate

The Dutch Senate will go through the debate on the study delay fine all over again. All the critical issues will be recalled and reviewed as if the matter had not been mentioned before in the Second Chamber.

Judicial issues, practical issues, principle and other issues will be brought up again in the senate. State secretary Zijlstra will have to answer all these before the law can be voted upon. A second round of questioning may even have to take place if the senators find the answers to be incomplete.
The new law stipulates that students doing their Bachelor's and Master's degrees are allowed just one year of extension, after which they have to pay an extra three thousand euros in tuition fees. This regulation is supposed to take effect in the coming academic year, but the implementation of the tuition fee increase has been postponed to September 2012 at the insistence of the Reformed Political Party (SGP). This small Christian political party is the second partner in the cabinet which can enable the government in the senate to muster a majority.
It would not take Zijlstra long to answer all the questions, as he has tackled most of them frequently. The Democrats 66, Christian Union and SGP want to know how to treat current students who had not foreseen the coming of the study delay fine: doesn't its implementation go against the principle of legal certainty? Shouldn't there be a transitional provision in the law?
How long did the ministers and state secretaries in the cabinet study in their time? The Socialist Party would like to have an outline of that, 'including the reasons why the periods were short or long'. The party also wants an 'honest answer' to the question as to what the decision makers themselves would have done if they were faced with the prospect of such a study delay fine.
The Labour Party reiterates its doubt that the study delay fine will help students to finish their studies faster. The party also does not see why this proposal should be separated from other measures to raise the quality of higher education: why aren't all these handled together? And why is the increase in tuition fees three thousand euros, and not two or four thousand euros?
The ruling parties are much more agreeable to the regulation. The CDA, however, wants to know if students can slip through the mazes of the law by registering and deregistering at strategic moments. In addition, the Christian democrats feel that the law should make it possible to expel students who do badly after their first study year. Zijlstra's own party, the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), makes a stand for good study information.
Zijlstra would have to get a move on if he wants to present the law before the senate's summer recess. There are only four plenary meetings left, one of which will be for the installation of the new senators.