The SCAU has been in conflict with the universities for five years now. In 2011, a group of law students brought eight institutions to trial, including the RUG, due to the ‘disproportionate’ costs for studying a second degree.
They fought their way to the Dutch Supreme Court but ultimately lost the case. The last point of contention, according to the SCAU, was that prospective students must first register themselves in order to subsequently oppose the higher tuition fees. But according to the judge, there is no evidence of that being the case. This means that the law students do not have a leg to stand on.
Since 2010, research universities and universities of applied sciences have been allowed to charge students who start a second study institutional tuition fees. Students have the right to study one bachelor’s and one master’s degree at the lower fee. In many cases, those who graduate from their first degree before starting a second one pay the much higher institution tuition fees.
At the RUG pursuing a second degree in economics and business studies costs 13,600 euros, and a degree in medicine is even more expensive at 32,000 euros. The law students feel that such sums of money exceed the actual costs of the study.
The SCAU wanted to know what the RUG and other institutions base these fees on. The university could not provide a clear answer to this question. According to the minister, it is at the university’s discretion to decide upon the institutional tuition fees they wish to charge for secondary degrees, irrespective of the price of the degree itself.
The SCAU is not going to let it go and has now turned on the judges themselves. ‘Although we do not want to levy accusations of bias at the Supreme Court, we nevertheless feel that it is strange that the president of the panel of judges who wrote the verdict is on the payroll of one of the universities (The Amsterdam VU, red.), and that one of the other judges once worked at the law office of one of the universities for 24 years. This does not help inspire confidence in this rather odd ruling’, wrote one of the members on Facebook.
The Supreme Court is not having any of it. ‘The registry allocates the judges randomly to a case’, says a spokesperson to the Higher Education Press Office. According to the Supreme Court, the judge in question has not been a professor since 2013 and his name is still mistakenly listed on the VU Amsterdam website.