Science - September 2, 2004

Non-EU students bear the brunt of education cuts

The Dutch government wants to stop subsidising non-EU students next academic year. The new cuts will not be made officially known until budget day, the third Tuesday in September (Prinsjesdag), but the reactions are overwhelmingly negative.

The recently published Higher Education and Research Plan (HOOP) made it clear that the financing of the six to eight thousand non-EU students in the Netherlands was going to be reconsidered. As of the academic year 2005/6 it was stated that money should ‘no longer be the only motivation’ for attracting non-EU students to higher education establishments here. According to the spokesman for the ministry of education, Fennema, the priority should not be quantity but quality. ‘This applies not only to the students themselves, but also to the education. Some institutions here have not always invested sufficiently in good programmes for these students.’ 

The exact plans for non-EU students will only be submitted to parliament around budget day, but many institutions are already getting worried. At present higher education establishments themselves can determine the tuition fees they charge to non-EU students, which has led to some big rises. If they lose their government subsidy, the fees are likely to rise even further. This will make studying in the Netherlands unaffordable for many foreign students, and as a result the Dutch knowledge economy is turning its back on many talented students. Spokesman Fennema has indicated that the ministry is considering creating a new system of grants to attract the ‘best’ and most highly motivated foreign students to the Netherlands. The idea behind this would also be to create more structured relationships with foreign universities. An amount of five million euros has been mentioned.



The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) regards the cuts as inconsistent. ‘We are surprised that the cuts are once again only directed at higher education. This contradicts all the intentions declared for building up the knowledge economy, promoting life-long learning and furthering internationalisation,’ said a VSNU spokesman. The VSNU intends to fight the cuts with an intensive lobbying campaign. It does not intend to give universities guidelines for setting fees for non-EU students. ‘That depends on how they profile themselves and how much they need the students.’



 

Obviously the new measures will affect the institutions that have a strong international focus. Among the universities in the Netherlands, Wageningen University (the agricultural university) and TU-Delft (technical university) are most worried. But the CHN University in Leeuwarden also stands to lose. Offering courses in hotel management, tourism, and international business and management, it is a strongly internationally oriented university for professional education. At least one thousand of the six thousand students come from abroad, and five hundred of these from outside the EU. CHN also has branches abroad, in Qatar and South Africa. Chairman of the board Vroon comments, ‘We are going to have to extend our own activities abroad. If we can’t have the students come here to us, we’ll take the education to them outside the Netherlands.’ / HOP/SvO

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