This became clear on Friday during a technical briefing about the bill sent a few days earlier to the House of Representatives by Education Minister Van Engelshoven. In the proposed legislation, the first-year tuition fee would be 1,030 rather than 2,060 euros as of the next academic year – a gesture on the government’s part to make up for the introduction of the loan system.
The schedule is quite ambitious: plans are to introduce the reduced tuition fee – first announced in last year’s coalition agreement – in September of this year.
While the bill has already been sent to the House of Representatives, the organisations involved are still working feverishly in the background to determine the best way to tackle the job. To successfully implement the reduction for first-year students, a number of organisations – including Studielink and DUO – will need to adapt their systems.
The Council of State had little faith in the plan, predicting that DUO wouldn’t be able to process the changes on schedule. But DUO faces the test phase, which kicks off in April, with confidence. “That’s when we want to find out: is the entire chain ready – and is the information transferred correctly?”
DUO and Studielink already started making a number of adaptations required for the implementation of the proposed legislation in January. And the research universities and universities of applied sciences are also hard at work on this project. In April, the test phase will be concluded with a go/no-go check. If everything goes according to plan, this means the organisations will be ready to receive the first applications as of 1 May.
This reduction isn’t just riding on technology, however: the House of Representatives could also throw a spanner in the works. In the meantime, the Dutch MPs have already been treated to a promo clip made for prospective students about the 50% reduction. Isn’t the Cabinet getting ahead of itself here, wondered GroenLinks MP Özdil.
It may not be ideal, says a civil servant, but it’s the best they can do under the circumstances. “If it were up to us, we would have planned the operation in 2020 or 2021. That would have given us the time to go through each aspect together. But the coalition agreement says that we have to implement the plan this academic year. If we want to pull this off, we need to start adapting our systems and preparing the students.”