The Minister argued in favour of relaxing the requirements to alleviate the mental strain experienced by the current crop of students. She said she felt that students who obtained forty of the sixty credits that can be obtained in Year 1 should be allowed to stay on.

Van Engelshoven did not receive much support for her plan. Her fellow politicians were critical of her plans and the universities were not happy, either. The Minister soon eased off a little on the subject, saying she wished to discuss the matter with the universities and suggesting to the Lower House that she would present it with a more detailed proposal later. But on Tuesday it was found that the majority of MPs were not in favour of that plan.


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Wasting time

Last week, during the debate on the Ministry of Education’s budget, four parties (PVV, VVD, CDA and SGP) tabled a motion. Their idea was that strict requirements (the so-called ‘binding study recommendation’) prevent students from wasting time for several years on degrees that are not right for them. Therefore, they said, “the binding study recommendation should be left to the higher education institutions themselves”. The Forum voor Democratie (two MPs) helped the four parties obtain a majority in the House.

Several other motions that Van Engelshoven had advised against were accepted. One of the more noteworthy motions was that first-year students attending university colleges will now see their tuition fees reduced by one thousand euros, just like other first-year students. In other words, their (much) higher tuition fees will no longer be halved.

The majority of the Dutch MPs wish to allocate the money saved by this measure to the combating of teacher shortages. The idea behind the proposal is that, while there are enough teachers to teach certain subjects, there is a severe shortage of teachers teaching other subjects. The Lower House wishes to give teachers an incentive to switch to in-demand subjects – for instance, by encouraging history teachers to retrain and become German teachers instead. At present, there is no budget for such retraining, meaning teachers have to pay thousands of euros to get a second degree themselves.

‘Study advance’

MPs were also asked to vote on the use of a word: studievoorschot (‘study advance’), the phrase used to describe a student loan with a favourable interest rate. CDA and SP want this phrase to be abolished, since it presents too rosy a view of study loans. However, the matter could not be subjected to a vote, since the voting equipment malfunctioned. A show of hands did not work, either. The MPs will vote on the matter some other day.