Student - July 11, 2012

Student societies lose court case over slow student fine

Students have lost a court case to block the slow student fine from being implemented. Starting from this September, students will have to pay three thousand euros more in tuition fees if they exceed the normal study period by more than a year. Part-timers are the only ones spared from this ruling.

This court decision has just been given in The Hague. Three student organizatons - ISO, ISVb and LKvV - had put up a barrage of legal arguments against the slow student fine, but the judge hardly accepted any of their objections.
A judge should not assume the role of a legislator, he writes in the introduction to the 22-page long judgement.  As such, he must exercise restraint in criticizing laws. Moreover, there is a justifiable reason for the slow student regulation: to increase the returns from education. As such, the court has even fewer reasons to interfere.
The judge notes that the right to education will not be jeopardized by the regulation, since government departments are able to 'regulate' the accessibility to education. Moreover, students can see the regulation approaching.
The court has made an exception only for a specific group of part-time students. It rules that the state has breached the principle of equality by giving dissimilar cases (part-time students) the same treatment as full-time students (graduate as fast).
Students who have signed up for a part-time programme which lasts longer than a full-time programme before 1 February 2011 (when the legislation was submitted) should not be treated just like full-time students.
State secretary Zijlstra had been apprehensive all along that an escape route can be created if part-timers were exempted from the regulation. However, the judge rules out this possibility since students can no longer be placed among this group of part-timers.
The judge has also rejected the state attorney's argument that part-time programmes do not have a formal status. 'We base the judgement on social reality and not on administrative procedures.' The state attorney's submission that this only involves a small group of students has also been brushed aside by the judge.  The fairness of a regulation should not be determined by the number of people.
Student organizations ISO, LSVb and LKvV are disappointed, because the majority of students will actually have to pay more than three thousand euros extra if they take more than an extra year in their Bachelor's or Master's programmes. They are only pleased in having achieved a victory for a small group of part-timers.