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Tilburg University: Tuition fees - Smart marketing trick?

5 October 2008, 00:00

Tuition fees: Smart marketing trick? Students outside the European Economic Area (EEA) have to cough up large tuition fees to study at Tilburg University.

Students outside the European Economic Area (EEA) have to cough up large tuition fees to study at Tilburg University. This is because these students also cost a lot more, the university claims. Besides, if the tuition fees were lower, nobody would show up.

'Universities make a lot of money on students from poor countries'. This is what Joanneke Krämer, vice-chairman of student union LSVb, said in early April. According to Krämer, many institutions ask cost-effective tuition fees for non-EEA students (from outside the European Union and several other countries), while they also receive money from the ministry for these students.

At Tilburg University, EEA students pay 1565 euros in tuition fees, while non-EEA students have to fork out tuition fees ranging from 2212 euros up to 9918 euros. The level is based on whether a student is a part-timer or a full-timer and whether he or she is following a bachelor's or a master's; it is also related to the course of studies.

An unreasonably high amount? Folkert Kootstra of Economic and Administrative Affairs doesn't think so. "Students coming from non-EEA countries also cost more. The marketing costs are higher, there are scholarship programmes, plus they need residence permits. Starting from next year, the university will also pay their visas."

The entire proceeds of the tuition fees from the non-EEA students amount to 2.4 million euros per year. Besides this, Tilburg University also receives a government subsidy. From 2009 this will come to the vast amount of 1.1 million euros a year.

This 3.4 million euros is spent on several things. Around 65% of the tuition fees go directly to the faculties where these students are to study. This money is thrown on a 'big pile' and the faculties spend it, for instance, on marketing and education costs. Around 0.9 million euros is spent on the international office, and the Language Centre costs around 1.4 million euros.


The international student also pays indirectly for the 'internationalization' of the university. In the budget for 2008, it's calculated that the university will have expenses amounting to 1.6 million euros for internationalization. This includes, for instance, the recruitment of international top chairs and the costs of ensuring everybody on campus speaks English, but also the development of the new Liberal Arts bachelor's. Isn't it strange that international students have to pay for this campus internationalization? "Well, if we only had Dutch students here, we wouldn't have to give lessons in English", Kootstra says.

Xi Liu (21) from China thinks the tuition fees are too high. But, the student of Business studies adds, "The quality of teaching, the classes, facilities, number of computers, et cetera, is far more important than the costs."


So the height of the tuition fees is not based on cost-effectiveness: some of the general internationalization costs are also covered. However, that is not the only reason the tuition fees are so high. In order to attract non-EEA students to Tilburg, the university takes into account that marketing and psychology play a great role.

Kootstra: "For many years our tuition fee policy has been based on marketing effects, including psychology, rather than government funding or costs. Many people think that international students choose for the lowest price according to a standard demand-supply model. This is not the case. Students think low tuition fees stand for poor quality. So if our tuition fees were much lower than those of other international universities, it would be a reason for international students not to choose us."

Diederik Stapel of Tiber, the Tilburg Institute for Behavioral Economics Research, is not content with the fact that Tilburg University considers marketing aspects in determining tuition fees.

"When you demand a large amount of money, expectations arise that quality will be delivered. In many cases this is not the fact. I think that basing tuition fees on marketing is a false economical way of thinking. At Harvard, for example, students pay very high tuition fees. But then again, the quality of the education is much higher than in Tilburg. It's OK to show off, telling everybody that you're the best, as Tilburg University does in several publications. But if you can't live up to that, it's unfair to demand a lot of money. This university should ask itself how much our education is really worth."

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