News - December 2, 2010

Students who take too long will be penalized

The State Secretary for Higher Education wants to deal firmly with lazy students and lax higher education institutions. As of the next academic year, anyone spending too long on their degree will be paying three thousand euros extra on tuition fees, making total fees of nearly 4700 euros. Furthermore, universities of applied science and academic universities will have a ‘penalty deduction’ of three thousand euros for every slow student.

Nearly 1500 students, including about twenty from Wageningen, demonstrated against the Cabinet’s plans in The Hague on Monday 29 November. The riot police stopped the demonstrators when they tried to march to the offices of the Prime Minister.
One year extension
Students are allowed extensions totalling one year during their Bachelor's and Master's degrees. Anyone needing more than one year extra during the Bachelor's phase will have to pay additional annual tuition fees of three thousand euros. Bachelor's students start with a clean slate on their Master's degree - until they start to get behind again. Then they start paying the higher tuition fees straight away. The scheme will take effect immediately. So if you are already into extra time, you will need to make sure you have graduated before September 2011. What is more, students who are in extra time will lose their public transport annual pass from 1 January 2012.
The State Secretary, Halbe Zijlstra, will see whether students taking science or technical degrees should be made an exception. Students with a handicap may also be given more time. But the outlook is bleak for students actively involved in student councils or student society committees. The VVD (liberal party) sees a year on a committee as a personal investment in the future.
It is not just the students who will be punished for taking too long over their studies; there will also be penalty deductions for institutions.  The universities of applied sciences wanted to pass on the penalties to the slow students but there was no support for that in the Dutch Parliament. The proposed legislation will be submitted to Parliament at the end of January./HOP, Alexandra Branderhorst
Reactions from Wageningen:
Karmijn van den Berg, Wageningen Student Union (WSO):
'This will have a big impact: no more time for a second degree or a committee job. All student society committees should take action. We will really feel the effects ourselves. I still need to do two courses for my Bachelor's degree. I am thinking about doing them now, alongside my committee job, to prevent any delays.'
Ewoud Nijhof, PSF (progressive student party):
'Taking a degree involves huge financial risks for students who are ill or choose the wrong subject. There will also be pressure on voluntary work and committee work. Soon students will no longer be doing the things we approve of and find important, for financial reasons. That is a loss to society and the university. This year on the committee means a year's delay for me; I will probably need to take out a loan for my Master's in 2012.'
Martijn Kuller, VeSte:
'We are really concerned for active students; this will hit us hard. Personally, I am two years behind: first I spent a year studying something else and now I am working for VeSte. This will make doing a degree expensive, even for students who are not lazy. We are also afraid of what this will mean for standards. The danger is that standards will go down if the university puts pressure on students to get through their degree quickly.'

A Master's after a university of applied sciences degree?
University of applied sciences students will also be affected by the measures to deal with students taking too long. And they will have to take out a loan if they want to go on to take a Master's degree. VHL students from Leeuwarden are prepared for the worst.
Nick van Doormaal, third year student doing Animal Management:
'I will probably have to borrow some more money if I want to carry on with my studies after Van Hall.'
Rianne van Toor, third year student doing Animal Management:
'It won't be possible for me to carry on with my studies immediately after graduating from VHL if I will no longer be getting a grant. As I don't want to take out a loan I will first have to work for a while to earn enough money.'