Student - February 15, 2007

Rector against ‘heavy cuts’ in financial support for students

The Student Council organised a debate on Tuesday 13 February to find out what students think of the Financial Support for Students (FOS). A wide cross-section of the student clubs and associations in Wageningen was present in the big lecture hall in the Leeuwenborch, afraid that their activities will be hit by budget cuts. The rector, Professor Martin Kropff expressed his appreciation of active students, but confined himself to saying that there will not be ‘heavy cuts’.

The rector’s main reason for attending was to listen to the students’ opinions. He also explained why the Executive Board is looking at the current regulation. ‘The students in Wageningen are very active, and it is important to have other activities in addition to your study,’ said Kropff. ‘But the FOS arrangement is part of our overhead costs. When we made 25 percent cuts in these last year, we did not touch the FOS. Our policy is to look at quality, whether there is demand for something, and its efficiency. It might be possible to arrange the FOS differently,’ he added, suggesting that clubs might go in search of sponsors. Kropff also indicated that the grants given in compensation for board membership involve a lot of money: half a million euros out of the 22 million education budget.

Then it was the turn of the students. It is difficult for international students to occupy board positions because of the study delays incurred. Edwin Zea Escamilla from the ISOW: ‘We also work for the university, but it’s difficult for international students to run up delays. You’re doomed if you have a grant.’ The FOS is also of little value for international students from outside the European Union, he stated. ‘Their tuition fees are much higher than those of the other students. A bit of FOS is peanuts.’ Students who have to stay longer incur extra costs for extending their residence permit.

In view of possible cuts, the Student Council proposed a number of alternatives. Reactions varied to the idea of getting study points instead of FOS. It might be an option for smaller amounts. The idea of offering more exam opportunities was dismissed. ‘The problem is that my other activities mean I can’t go to lectures,’ commented one person. Speaking on behalf of the Student Council, Amrish Baidjoe concluded that the students reject any form of cuts. ‘We are going to stand up for the students,’ he made clear. Kropff promised that he would convey the comments made during the discussion to his colleagues on the Executive Board.

As the evening closed, Kropff was unable to confirm that cuts would not happen, however. ‘We have to remain critical and we are talking about a substantial budget.’ He repeated that he will look into whether the regulation can be adjusted to enable international students to become more involved, and whether VHL Wageningen students can be included. He was not prepared to say whether an extension of the arrangements for these groups would have to come out of the current budget or whether extra money might be used.