Numerous ideas, questions and proposals were discussed in the House of Representatives during the debate on the budget of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. However, two proposals stand out.

D66 and SP submitted an amendment: they want to raise the basic grant for students living away from home again in the coming academic year. Similar to this academic year, these students would receive an additional 164 euros per month on top of the regular basic grant.

VVD also had an amendment in mind. The party wants to give universities and colleges the option to limit the intake of students for the English-language tracks of programmes. This way, they can control the arrival of foreign students.

EM illustratie 15 nov 2020 Wiersema financien lening budget-03 geld duo studenten money students

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Basic grant raised again

The discussion began with the basic grant for those living away from home. The minister thinks it’s a sympathetic proposal to increase it again by 164 euros, but according to him, there is no funding available.

The proposing parties want to tap into an unused fund from another ministry, but Dijkgraaf does not think that is a good idea. “Such a shift of funds does not suit an outgoing government”, he said. Because the money comes from another policy area, he finds the coverage ‘inappropriate’.

Sandra Beckerman (SP) outlined the consequences: students living away from home will be 164 euros per month worse off in the coming academic year, while the cost of living remains the same. She still hopes that the amendment will gain majority support. The government may be outgoing, she said, but the House of Representatives is not.

Jan Paternotte (D66) described the situation for a new government that will take office soon. As that would have to disappoint students living away from home right out of the gate. He asked the minister for confirmation that the proposal is feasible. It could indeed be done, the minister admitted, although it would be rushed.

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Limiting intake

The influx of foreign students is an important topic, and that is why VVD also submitted an amendment. It gives research universities and universities of applied sciences the option to restrict admission to English-language tracks of programmes.

The advantage of this: the programmes remain accessible to Dutch students through the Dutch-language tracks, while institutions can keep the number of foreign students in check.

Dijkgraaf advised against this amendment for two reasons: it has been submitted at the wrong time and it will also become part of a larger legislative change regarding internationalisation.

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It is the wrong time because the House of Representatives is discussing the budget and not the law that regulates student access to programmes. According to the rules of the House of Representatives itself, this amendment might therefore not even be admissible. VVD MP Claire Martens-America called it a formal issue, but Lisa Westerveld (GroenLinks-PvdA) later in the debate requested that she withdraw the amendment Martens-America did not yet want to react to that.

The other issue is diligence. “I completely understand the desire in terms of content”, Dijkgraaf said, and he also believes that institutions should have more options in terms of the intake restriction. But this should happen in conjunction with other measures. For example, he wants to make agreements with institutions about the application of such possibilities.

We have checks and balances to consider, the minister said. Before introducing a bill, he seeks out all kinds of opinions. Currently, for example, he is waiting for the opinion of the Education Council. He felt it would be wrong to interfere with that by submitting an amendment during a budget debate. The minister plans to submit his own bill before the summer.

There has been talk about the possibility of such intake restrictions for years now. An earlier bill, which also included something similar, had already been adopted by the House of Representatives. However, that ended up being shelved when the previous government fell. Dijkgraaf himself then withdrew that bill to come up with his own proposal.


It remains to be seen how much support the two amendments will receive. The House of Representatives will vote on Tuesday. Rosanne Hertzberger (NSC) already announced that she wants to give the minister more time for his own bill to curb internationalisation and that her party will not yet support the VVD amendment.

However, she submitted a motion calling on the minister to find out within eight weeks what all educational institutions will do ‘to significantly reduce the share of English-language programmes’.

As for the increase to the basic grant – other parties have yet to comment on the matter.

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