Highly qualified refugees find it more difficult to study in Rotterdam than in other cities. While other cities have covenants to enable them to study and keep their benefits, such a proposal has already foundered twice in the Rotterdam municipal council, writes Vers Beton.

“This city is creating a serious problem,” says Erik van den Bergh from the UAF, the Foundation for Refugee Students. “Unless the aim is to permanently exclude refugees.” Not all applications submitted by the UAF in Rotterdam to place refugee students are rejected, but the processing takes a long time and ‘an application is not often granted’.

Special arrangement

A covenant with the UAF would mean a special arrangement for refugee students, so that they could study and keep their benefits. One of the opponents of such a covenant is council member Michel van Elck of Leefbaar Rotterdam. “We didn’t want to have them here in the first place, because Rotterdam has enough problems already. Let alone supporting the creation of a special arrangement for status holders. Why can a status holder study and keep their benefits while a resident of Rotterdam can’t?”

The PvdA (Socialist Party) supports a covenant. “Other cities recognise the special situations that refugees are in,” says council member Peggy Wijntuin. “We’re talking about highly qualified refugees who are too old for a student loan. Let’s use their talents.”


However, a ‘watered-down’ motion was pushed through the council: there will be a pilot with the UAF, in which a hundred Rotterdam residents may study and keep their benefits. The pilot is not exclusively for refugees, but for all Rotterdam residents.