The Dutch Lower House is still seeking to find a way to compensate the unfortunate students who saw their student grants converted into student loans between 2015 and 2017 but did not receive any form of compensation in the form of improved degree programmes.

Thanks to the millions of euros that will be made available from the funds saved when student grants were abolished, universities and universities of applied sciences will be able to give their degree programmes an additional financial injection. The universities promised the Minister a few years ago that they would use their own savings to invest in their degree programmes in the 2015-2017 period, in anticipation of the funds they would receive later. However, having conducted an investigation into these ‘pre-investments’, the Netherlands Court of Audit arrived at the conclusion last year that many universities failed to hold up their end of the bargain.

Bearing the brunt

In the spring of 2018, coalition party CDA called on the Cabinet to provide some form of compensation to those students who are bearing the brunt of the changes made to the student finance system. However, the Minister for Education said that no nation-wide compensation scheme would be established. Students who felt hard done by were told to ask their university’s executive board for compensation, through the University Council.

In a reply to questions raised in the Lower House, the Minister emphasised once again that the confidential reports on each university’s pre-investments drawn up by the Netherlands Court of Audit might be useful in this regard. The universities have promised the Minister to share these reports with their participation bodies, but the Minister is not certain how many universities have actually done so. They are not required by law to share the reports, but the Minister trusts that they will do so anyway once they embark on their discussions on how to spend the millions of euros that will become available in 2019 due to the abolition of student grants.

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What the university’s doing with your abolished student grant

The members of the University Council regularly meet to discuss subjects that may not…

Unsatisfactory

If a university fails to share the Court of Audit’s report on its pre-investments, or if the university councils are not satisfied with the discussions on the reports, the councils are allowed to ‘act on that dissatisfaction’. If absolutely necessary, a university council is free to ‘indicate that it will not approve the budget’, says Van Engelshoven, meaning that the university concerned will not be able to sign new target agreements.

To make sure the issue is dealt with, the Minister will inform the Lower House this spring of ‘the outcomes of the discussions on the individual universities’ reports’.

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