Home English New coalition agreement creates bleak future for students in the Netherlands

New coalition agreement creates bleak future for students in the Netherlands

That tertiary education appears to be in for a challenging time becomes painfully apparent from the new coalition agreement of the upcoming Dutch right-wing cabinet. The long-term study fine will be reintroduced, the binding study advice will remain and enrollment of international students discouraged. Student organisations react indignantly.

The Dutch coalition parties PVV, VVD, NSC and BBB presented their new cabinet plans last Thursday morning. It states, among other things, that from 2026 onwards, students who take more than a year longer to complete their studies will pay 3000 euros on top of the regular tuition fees. The binding study advice (BSA), which was supposed to be alleviated under the current government, will also remain in force. Additionally, studying in the Netherlands will be made significantly more difficult for internationals in various ways. Annually 400 million euros will be spent less on higher education. Furthermore, the Dutch National Growth Fund, an investment programme for education and research, will be completely abolished.

Student organisations speak out

Mo Quirijnen, chairman of the student union AKKU, denounces the plans of the new cabinet. ‘The costs of the economic crisis in the Netherlands are being delegated to people who can not bear it, in this case students,’ he says. The measures will only increase the high mental pressure in higher education, Quirijnen expects: ‘How are you ever supposed to learn at your own pace and develop yourself when such a penalty hangs over your head like a sword of Damocles?’ He also expresses his fears about the possible consequences of the long-term study fine for active student life: ‘This could completely demolish important student support organisations such as the participation bodies, student unions or legal advice centres.’ Although AKKU is currently mainly concerned with supporting the pro-Palestine protests on campus, Quirijnen is already thinking about possible actions against the new government plans. ‘An earlier attempt to introduce the long-term fines was blocked by student protests,’ says Quirijnen. ‘We need such protests again now.’

Parker Winkel of the Inclusion & Social Equity Commission (ISEC) is also discontented with the new coalition agreement. According to him, the ‘Dutchification’ (Vernederlandsing) of the curriculum is disastrous for international students. ‘Many internationals already do not feel welcome here and these plans are only going to make that worse’, says Winkel. He is also extremely concerned about different treatment of students from inside and outside Europe in the plans. For example, tuition fees for internationals outside of Europe will be significantly increased. ‘There is also the possibility of introducing a numerus fixus for non-European students when there are not enough places for European students’, he says. ‘This exclusion based on nationality is called an “emergency brake” in the plans, but I prefer the term discrimination.’

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