ZAGREB – Students in Europe sent the Dutch government a clear message in the beginning of December, when they criticised harshly the ongoing reforms to the country’s higher education system.
Representatives of 47 national unions of students gathered in Zagreb, Croatia, for the 65th Board Meeting of the European Students’ Union (ESU), which is the highest governing body of the organisation. They adopted a couple of motions on the reforms underway in the Netherlands, denouncing the government’s intention to privatise a part of the higher education system and to raise tuition fees for honours study tracks.
The Board Meeting identified several aspects of the reforms that might have negative consequences for students in the Netherlands. Plans to privatise part-time education in the Netherlands and decrease public funding for it undermines the fundamental vision of higher education as a public good and a public responsibility. Part-time education should be equally accessible to all students in line with the Lifelong Learning Programme.
Students are a part of the investment
Student representatives in Europe also found the government’s intentions to raise tuition fees for honours tracks and study programmes that have been accredited as excellent to be worrisome. It has been proposed to give administrators of honours tracks a permission to charge two times the general annual tuition fee for higher education in 2014. This could result in students having to pay up to 3812 euros in tuition fees.
Study programmes that are endorsed as ‘excellent’ by the Dutch and Flemish accreditation organisations and also fulfil different criteria, are already allowed to demand that students pay up to five times the annual tuition fees. With these new proposals, the Dutch government dissimulates motivated and talented students and puts a heavy burden on them. Therefore, the accessibility of higher education will be further reduced. Fewer students will make the decision to sign up for excellent education and ESU is concerned that those that do will have to take huge loans to complete their studies, resulting in high debt.
“Education is an investment in society and the Dutch government has to realise that it is important that every student has the possibility to be part of this investment. Students should have the freedom to choose the education which is in their interest and not be limited in their decision by financial barriers,” said the resolution that was adopted by national unions of students in Europe.
ESU urges the Dutch government to take the voice of students into account and its policy-making and protect higher education as a public good and a public responsibility. The reforms, as they have been introduced, send a wrong signal to students and may have negative consequences on the accessibility to higher education.
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The European Students’ Union, headquartered in Brussels, is the umbrella organisation of 47 national unions of students from 39 European countries. ESU represents and promotes the educational, social, economical and cultural interests of students at the European level. Through its member unions, ESU represents over 11 million students in Europe. To find out more about ESU, follow us on Twitter @ESUtwt, check out or Facebook page or visit www.esu-online.org. ESU celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012.