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Eurogates

Dutch border universities fear an exodus

16 April 2006, 02:38

The five border universities - the universities of Twente, Tilburg, Groningen, Maastricht and Nijmegen - sent an open letter to the Lower House calling for the preservation of the Raulin grant.

The five border universities - the universities of Twente, Tilburg, Groningen, Maastricht and Nijmegen - sent an open letter to the Lower House calling for the preservation of the Raulin grant. State Secretary of Education Rutte plans to scrap this provision - which allows European students to get funding for seventy percent of their tuition fees - in 2007. The universities fear an exodus of EU students.

The new student grant system proposed by Rutte allows each student to borrow the money for their tuition from the government. Students from other EU countries also qualify for this arrangement, rendering the Raulin grant system redundant for this group, according to the state secretary, because the loan system meets the European rules for student cost compensation.

The chairmen of the executive boards of the five border universities are worried this will discourage foreign students from selecting Dutch universities in the future. They write: `The introduction of the new Dutch student grant system replaces the Raulin grant for EU students with a tuition loan (allowing them to borrow the tuition fees from the Dutch government). This will make Dutch institutes less attractive to such students, decreasing the number of applications.' The Netherlands already has one of the lowest numbers of foreign students in Europe, according to the chairmen. They foresee drastic consequences of the proposed law, both in the short and in the long term.

The universities fear a reduction of the number of foreign students will cause a reduction in government funding for universities, `causing the possible weakening of the regional knowledge position.' In the long term, the chairmen predict Dutch universities will become `regional, or at best, national institutes.' All the while, the goal is to `increase the inflow of talented European students.'

`We are very concerned with this situation and wish to remind you as a member of the Lower House of your great responsibility: the responsibility for the damage to Dutch universities in the first place and in the second place to Dutch society.'

The state secretary feels the universities' concerns are unnecessary. Whether or not tuition fees are subsidized will not be a deciding factor in whether a student will come to the Netherlands. He also points out that only seventy percent of tuition fees are currently being reimbursed, `while students will be able to borrow the full sum in the new system.'

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