Nieuws - 24 mei 2012

Must tuition fees for technical degree programmes be reduced?

Marlies Bos (the left-wing fluffy type) and Jillis Herweijer (the right-wing Hooray Henry type) rarely see eye to eye on matters of politics, the environment or student life

MARLIES: It is absolutely essential that more people choose to do a technical degree; with today's global problems we really need these people. But lower tuition fees is not the answer - studies among  school pupils have already shown this doesn't help. Besides, I have grave doubts about involving financial incentives in a choice like this. I'm worried it will create more dropouts, because some students won't be truly motivated. More attention needs to be paid to subject  choice. Research shows that status, for example, is often a key factor and with that starting point you are not likely to choose natural sciences. In secondary schools, maths and science should be better promoted and students should be enthused; the 'nerdy' image of science programmes must change.
JILLIS RESPONDS: I agree with you that technical studies should be put in the spotlight at secondary school. Insofar as that 'nerd image' still exists, it must be made clear to school pupils that engineers are precisely the people who keep the country running. And financial incentive or not: there will be no lack of motivation to complete a programme, given the stricter requirements on student grants and loans, and the BSc before MSc rule.
JILLIS: I think it is important that more people in the Netherlands take a technical degree programme. Society is increasingly confronted with issues that call for technical solutions. Just think of food scarcity, lack of water, (or the opposite, rising sea levels) and energy shortages. That's why it would be reasonable to reduce the tuition fees for technical programmes. This shouldn't been seen as spending more money, but as an investment in our future. And as far as I'm concerned silly degrees can be tagged with higher fees as - marginal - compensation for the social security that will be doled out later. School pupils should be encouraged to choose a useful programme, instead of an 'I-like-it-so-it's-a-proper-course' option. For Heaven's sake let's get people learning something that they can later use to develop and apply innovative technology to tackle real problems.
MARLIES RESPONDS: I agree with you that we should take a critical look at the usefulness and standard of a degree programme. However, we should differentiate a bit: what may seem silly now may well be relevant in a number of years' time. In view of that, I think higher tuition fees for 'silly degrees' (and who is to decide which ones they are?) is a ridiculous idea.