Although institutions are doing their utmost to mitigate the fallout, some students are still stymied by the corona crisis. They are no longer on schedule in their programme – because they can’t do an internship or attend practicals, for example.
The government needs to set up a national scheme for this problem, according to various parties from both the coalition and the opposition. Because right now, the support funds managed by the research universities and universities of applied sciences set rather curious requirements, as the Higher Education Press Agency (HOP) reported last Friday. And maybe institutions should be offered more funds to help the affected students.
A lot of students aren’t even aware that these ‘profiling funds’ (profileringsfondsen) exist. And reading through the terms (which vary from one institution to the next), it remains to be seen whether they can count on anything after applying for financial support. For example, students sometimes miss the boat when they don’t apply in time, or already have a diploma from another institution.
For the moment, Minister Van Engelshoven isn’t budging. The only option she has to offer students who run into financial problems is borrowing more money from Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs. But political pressure is mounting.
As it is, coalition member CDA wanted “more uniform rules” for the profileringsfondsen, according to MP Harry van der Molen. In the past, he was primarily concerned about students who decide to sit on the board of a student association, for example: some universities of applied sciences and research universities offer these students more support than others.
But in the present corona crisis, these differences have “come under a magnifying glass”, according to Van der Molen. “It is always more practical to agree on uniform arrangements. You need to offer students clarity regarding which conditions they need to satisfy to take advantage of this scheme.”
D66 MP Jan Paternotte also wants the government to move on the matter. He says it’s important to “tighten things up” so students “have a better idea of what they can count on”. Students who “clearly through no fault of their own” fall behind in their studies should not be turned away at the gate.
Paternotte: “That more students are applying to this fund in these times shouldn’t come as a surprise. And it also makes sense to study whether the government can’t make extra funds available to the research universities and universities of applied sciences for their profileringsfondsen.”
The opposition parties agree. “Yes, we definitely need to arrange something at the national level,” says Frank Futselaar of the Socialist Party. “It isn’t fair to leave this in the institutions’ hands – neither for the institutions nor for the students.”
Futselaar suggests refunding a share of the students’ tuition fee, for example, “or some other form of reimbursement”. According to the SP, another reason why the Cabinet needs to accommodate these students is that many of the part-time jobs that formerly provided a source of income for this group have been suspended. “Simply dismissing this problem with the remark that ‘they can borrow more money’ doesn’t hack it.”
Lisa Westerveld (GroenLinks) previously submitted parliamentary questions about accommodating students in some way. In her view, the government “is oversimplifying matters” by stating that students should weather the storm by borrowing more money. Westerveld wants to see a compensation scheme for students, “in which the bill isn’t sent to the institutions, but is footed by national government”.