Some students are charged tens of thousands of euros to get a second degree. Minister Bussemaker feels that universities and universities of applied sciences do a great job of explaining why, she said in response to some critical questions asked by the Dutch Socialist Party.

Completing a second degree can be an expensive proposition. Regular tuition fees are almost € 2,000 annually, but those embarking on a second degree are often asked to pay much more than that.

The gaps between the various fee levels are striking. For instance, students taking a bachelor degree in Medicine at Amsterdam VU University pay € 15,000 per year, whereas students studying for the same degree at Maastricht University are charged a whopping € 32.000. Students of the humanities are charged between € 4,000 and € 10,000 annually, depending on the education institution. Master degrees tend to be even more expensive, costing anywhere between € 10,000 and € 32,000. EUR’s fees tend to be more or less average for most degree programmes.



The Dutch Socialist Party asked the Minister for Education to lower tuition fees for second degrees to the statutory rate of just under € 2,000, but the Minister absolutely refused to do so. She is satisfied with the current system, as long as the education institutions provide transparency on the exact amount and structure of their fees, which, according to Bussemaker, they do.

It is true that most education institutions provide an explanation of their fees on their websites. Generally, they write that the university-imposed fees are determined by the contributions made by the government for regular students, which vary considerably. A medical degree just happens to be more expensive than, say, a language degree.

Not enough

However, Jarmo Berkhout, President of the National Student Union (LSVb), feels that this is not enough. “They make no effort to account for the astronomical fees some of them charge. They provide no explanations whatsoever. Students should be given a good understanding of what they are expected to pay, and also why.”

For his part, Cees Zweistra, President of the Collective Action at Universities Foundations (SCAU), also wonders about the usefulness of the explanations being provided. He has taken several universities to court, all the way to the Supreme Court, for the high tuition fees they are charging for second degrees. “It is true that they provide arguments on their websites, but are those arguments correct? We can’t verify their calculations. The university-imposed fee should allow the universities to break even, but perhaps the contributions made by the government actually exceed the expenses. They are not just spending the money on education, but on scientific research. I wish the institutions would take a serious look at this, but everybody is hiding behind walls of formality.”


The universities regard this as nonsense. “We feel that the system is transparent,” said Bastiaan Verweij, a spokesman for the Association of Universities in the Netherlands. “We are unable to make in-depth calculations. Just think of all the things you would have to include: the price of the facilities per square metre, staffing costs, etc. But universities do show the various levels of funding, as well as other factors that were taken into consideration.”

The Minister for Education feels that the thirteen regular Dutch universities are all providing sufficient transparency. So are the great majority of universities of applied sciences. However, eight smaller schools offering higher professional education, Open University and three theological universities have been called upon to provide in-depth explanations of their tuition fees. If these education institutions fail to provide the requisite explanations, Minister Bussemaker may force them to do so, and maximise their fees if necessary. But she has threatened to do so before, said SP MP Jasper van Dijk, the person whose written questions about the fees Bussemaker was answering. “It’s about time she actually went through with it. She needs to bite rather than bark.”

It should be noted that not all Dutch education institutions charge higher rates for second degrees. For instance, Delft and Eindhoven Universities of Technology charge exactly the same fees for first and second degrees. In addition, the government makes exceptions for those who wish to get degrees related to healthcare or education after completing their first degrees. These students, too, are exempt from paying higher tuition fees.