Student life
Penalty for slow students

Universities and students taken aback by planned cutbacks

Students and their organizations are reacting resentfully to the new coalition agreement, which includes hefty cuts to higher education. Especially the return of the long study fine is an unpleasant surprise.

(Photo: Thijs van Reeuwijk)

The Dutch political parties PVV, VVD, NSC and BBB want to cut several hundred million euros from higher education. For students, this means a tightening of the study financing system: for example, they will no longer receive an allowance for public transport when studying abroad. Moreover, the forming parties do not want to extend the temporary increase in the basic grant for students living away from home. They now receive an additional 164 euros per month temporarily because of inflation. That amount will definitely expire in September.

‘These plans will be disastrous for student well-being.’

Even more striking is the return of the penalty for slow students. Starting in 2026, tuition fees for full-time students who need more than one year extra to finish their studies will be increased by 3,000 euros. Tuition for next academic year has been set at over 2,500 euros, meaning the long-study penalty will more than double enrollment fees.

Board year or illness

Elisa Weehuizen, president of the Dutch Student Union (LSVb), is greatly concerned. “That penalty for slow students will punish all students who take a bit longer to complete their studies. It remains to be seen if a board year or an illness will be a valid reason not to have to pay the fine.”

She expects the pressure to perform on students will increase considerably, also because the parties agreed not to relax the recommendation on the continuation of studies (BSA). “This policy will be disastrous for student wellbeing. There’s nothing to suggest these parties are even remotely willing to improve that. They are brushing aside all expert recommendations in one fell swoop.”

How does the penalty for slow students work?

The coalition agreement has yet to be worked out further, but here is a calculation example. Suppose the regular tuition fee is 2,600 euros and you are a fifth-year student in a three-year university bachelor, then the penalty means you pay 5,600 euros. The same is goes for sixth-year students in a four-year bachelor’s program in higher education. It’s the same with master’s programmes.

Low-income families

No one saw the comeback of the penalty for slow students coming, says the Dutch National Students’ Association (ISO) in a press release. “Just like that, the introduction of this measure means the new cabinet will be making €282 million off this new generation.”

Umbrella organisation Universities of the Netherlands (UNL) expects that the fine will particularly affect young people from families with a low income. It may raise the threshold for them to go to university.

‘This puts the future of young people at stake’

UNL, ISO and LSVb are also uneasy about the other plans for higher education. It’s “a disaster for students”, says interim president of UNL Jouke de Vries. “This doesn’t align with the ambitions of the coalition parties to reinforce the knowledge economy and the earning capacity of the Netherlands”, he continues. “This puts the future of young people in our country at stake.”

UNL has calculated that the parties are jointly saving a structural amount of 500 million euros on higher education and research. “This jeopardises the job positions of 1,200 scientists”, says UNL.

Heavy blow

ISO is addressing students directly in its press release: “You’ve received blow after blow with the increase of tuition fees, decrease of the basic student grant and an interest that’s five times higher than it used to be.

‘It’s up to us to make our dissatisfaction heard’

“Thousands of students will once again struggle financially”, warns ISO. “This is a heavy blow for students who depend on a reasonable basic student grant to make ends meet; they will be much worse off in the coming academic year.”

Bad luck generation students

The extra compensation of 1.4 billion euros for students belonging to the so-called bad luck generation is also much lower than promised before the elections. “That’s 4 billion euros less than what Pieter Omtzigt of NSC had assured us of in his amendment.”

She also finds the intended cutbacks on science worrisome: “It’s up to the students and the institutions to make their dissatisfaction heard as clearly as can be in the coming months.”

HOP, Olmo Linthorst/ Delta, Annebelle de Bruijn

HOP Hoger Onderwijs Persbureau

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