This is outlined in a legislative proposal Van Engelshoven sent to the Dutch parliament on Friday. The proposal mainly discusses the issue of programmes being taught in English and the influx of foreign students, but the Minister also addresses tuition fees.

Since 2010, the government only funds students’ first Bachelor’s or Master’s degree programmes. Universities and universities of applied sciences were allowed to set their own tuition fees for students enrolling in a second degree programme. Exceptions were only made for students enrolled in a double degree programme and for degree programmes in healthcare or education.

Differences

The result is that tuition fees can vary widely between degree programmes. A Bachelor’s degree in Law costs 6,600 euros per year at Erasmus Universities Rotterdam, compared to 9,700 euros at Leiden University. For medical Master’s degree programmes the difference can be in excess of 15,000 euros.

A cap will now be imposed, as promised by the Minister last year. The degree programmes are not allowed to charge higher fees than the amount generally paid by the government per student, plus the usual tuition fees.

Amounts have not yet been announced, but a Bachelor’s degree in Law is expected to cost approximately 8,000 euros. Furthermore, excessive fluctuations of these fees are not permitted. The idea is to impose a set maximum for three years at a time.

Opposing views

The Council of State, which always advises the government on legislative proposals, is critical of the maximum-fee proposal. Universities and universities of applied sciences in general only seem to apply cost-covering tuition fees and no more than that. With that in mind, what problem is the government trying to solve?

But Minister van Engelshoven has put her foot down. “The mere fact that there is no pressing reason to limit the maximum amount does not preclude future situations from arising that would make the issue urgent”, she says.

The new maximum will apply for all students within the European Economic Area. It is also the new lower limit for tuition fees for students from outside Europe.

It would cost 180 million euros to fund all second (or third, fourth, etc.) degree programmes for students, something the government is not willing to do.  Funding for second degrees has been discontinued so those aged thirty and over without degrees could still enrol in programmes and pay the statutory rate. In other words, a political exchange was made.

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