Dutch students have little to complain about: Dutch higher education is accessible and does not cost too much, according to an American survey which compares the costs of studying in a number of countries.
ISO president Madelein Hofmijster agrees that university education is at present reasonably accessible. ‘But [secretary of state for education] Rutte wants to change this. The time allowed for study will be further limited and costs are due to rise.’ The student leader is referring to the new system that the government wants to introduce concerning the right to government-funded education. In this students must finish their degree within the time given, plus a maximum of eighteen months extra, otherwise they will have to pay far more.
At the ministry of education, however, the measures that Rutte is proposing are not seen as being likely to have an influence on the price and accessibility of Dutch higher education. ‘The measures are more geared towards quality rather than accessibility or affordability,’ said a spokesman. ‘In addition, the system of financial assistance will be improved. The repayment arrangements will become more flexible and students will also be able to take out a loan for tuition fees. We don’t think that the Dutch situation will deteriorate as a result of these measures.’
According to the president of the national students’ union LSVb, Kim Toering, the current tuition fees of 1476 euros do not exactly make Dutch higher education accessible. ‘We hear from all the student unions in other countries that higher education in the Netherlands is extremely expensive. I don’t know what the Americans have looked at, but I am assuming that their results are not correct.’ The union says it will carry out its own comparative survey soon.
Neighbouring countries, Germany and Belgium, are also included in the list. In terms of affordability they are just below the Netherlands, but in terms of accessibility they are way down the list. Accessibility is also lower in Sweden. Many countries that offer cheap education also have no student grants or loans available. / HOP