When students leave home to live independently, they receive a higher basic grant than students who continue to live with their parents. This represents an increase of 2.200 euros a year, which has led some students to abuse the system. DUO, the executive agency in charge of administering student financing, carries out checks to see whether students are actually living away from home.

Last year, an investigation by news agency HOP, Investico and NOSop3 revealed that DUO’s fraud inspectors had almost exclusively targeted students with a non-Western migration background. Not only that, but DUO sometimes based its conclusions on sketchy interviews in the neighbourhood and sloppy home visits.


The government has since apologised for the indirect discrimination that occurred. The follow-up question is whether innocent students were affected. The House of Representatives debated the issue last week.

GroenLinks-PvdA, SP and DENK tabled a motion aimed at ensuring that students are treated as innocent until proven guilty. They therefore asked the government “to adopt a new method of checks which shifts the burden of proof away from the students and more towards DUO”.

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Despite support from NSC, the motion ultimately failed to gain a majority. Three of the four parties currently in talks to form a new coalition government – PVV, VVD and BBB – voted against it, as did the three Christian parties – CDA, SGP and ChristenUnie.

Outgoing education minister Robbert Dijkgraaf had advised against the motion beforehand. At this stage, he is not prepared to acknowledge that innocent students have been affected. While he is in favour of reviewing the checks system, which will also involve looking at the burden of proof, he sees no need to pre-empt that process.


Other motions were also tabled, including one aimed at “not ruling out” compensation for affected students. As this was also voted down, the chances of victims receiving financial redress now appear to be slim.

However, a majority of the House does want the affected students to receive a personal letter of apology. The House also believes that the ‘human dimension’ of legislation should be evaluated and that moves to combat fraud should be vetted for direct and indirect discrimination.

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As soon as news of discrimination emerged, Dijkgraaf halted the algorithm used by DUO to make the initial screening on which students should and should not be subject to home visits. The algorithm turned out to be indirectly discriminatory and its use had never been properly founded.

The House of Representatives also passed motions in this regard. It wants DUO to work with science-based algorithms from now on. But a majority does not want to rule out ‘risk-based monitoring’.