News - March 9, 2011

Universities: 'Make performance-linked grant more stringent'

Universities do not want to get rid of the student grant but they do want to make it subject to stricter conditions. Students should only have six years, for example, in which to get their degree rather than ten years.

At the end of February, Trouw newspaper reported on its front page that universities wanted to get rid of the student grant. From now on students would have to borrow everything. That would save higher education millions of euros. But Sijbolt Noorda, Chairman of the Association of Universities, says the newspaper got it entirely wrong. What they want is very different, he writes on the Association of Universities website.
In fact, he explains, the classic student grant was abolished a long time ago, to be replaced by the performance-linked student grant. The grant is actually a loan, but one that you do not have to repay if you graduate within ten years.
The government wants to scrap the grants for Master's students, but Noorda says that the universities do not think that is a good idea. 'The universities are proposing that the performance-linked grant should be kept for all students, including for the Master's phase. But they do want to make the performance conditions more stringent.'
At present, the loan is turned into a gift if students get their degree within ten years. The universities are calling that limit into question. Students should, for example, be given six years for a four-year degree course.
'The government's proposal for the Master's phase simply involves scrapping the performance conditions: all students in the Master's phase will have to repay the grant from now on, whether or not they complete the degree successfully. Graduating within a reasonable time will no longer be rewarded', says Noorda. 'The universities find that a strange approach from a government that says it wants to discourage students from taking too long with their studies.'