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NETHERLANDS
Masters scholarships will be turned into loans
From 2013, Dutch students will no longer receive a scholarship during their masters studies. Legislation was recently passed to turn the scholarship into a loan. According to the student union LSVB this is the biggest budget cut ever for Dutch students.

The Dutch education authorities say students will face additional costs of up to EUR3,200 (US$4,255) a year. They will be able to pay back the loan, provided by the government, over 20 years. The law is part of a EUR18 billion set of cuts introduced by the coalition cabinet.

Undersecretary of Education Halbe Zijlstra said: “It is not unreasonable to ask more of students financially. They will prosper in the future because of their education.”

He added that the government – and thus the taxpayer – will keep on paying most of the costs of higher education programmes.

The new law is controversial in The Netherlands.

According to the LSVB this is the biggest budget cut ever for Dutch students. Chair Pascal ten Have stressed that higher education will become less accessible for students. He fears that many will no longer pursue a masters because they do not want to end up with huge debts.

Student organisation ISO emphasised that it is not fair for students to face higher costs without receiving a better education in return.

The law especially affects universities of science and technology, which have two-year masters programmes. Masters at most other universities are of one year’s duration.

Anne Flierman, chair of Dutch Universities of Technology, thinks the law is odd because The Netherlands needs more science and technology postgraduates in the future.

Adding insult to injury, more bad news may be on the way for students in The Netherlands. New budget cuts are probably necessary this year. Zijlstra has already suggested the possibility of turning the scholarship for undergraduate students into a loan too.

Other cuts have already been made. Students who take more than a year longer to finish their degrees than the course length, have to pay a fine of EUR3,000. And it is no longer free of charge to follow two studies simultaneously. This may now set students back EUR32,000 a year.
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