Tuition fee reduction amounts to half for some, much less for others

While most students in the Netherlands get a 50 percent reduction of their tuition fees, University College and Campus Fryslân students get far less. And for some internationals, it’s only 15 percent. ‘I can’t say that it had a great impact on me.’

Following the Dutch government decision to offer a discount for the problems caused by the pandemic over the previous academic years, university students throughout the Netherlands are experiencing a reduction of roughly one thousand euros on their tuition fees.

To most of the students, the reduction amounted to 50 percent of their fees; decreasing the total from 2,168 to 1,084 euros. But the policy made little impact on small-scale and intensive programmes students and international, non-EU students.

Human contact

Ben, a third-year student at University College Groningen, is grateful for the reduction, but he feels more could have been done. ‘Most of UCG teaching relies on students and teachers’ interactions,’ he says. ‘Human contact is very important and attending classes or being able to do projects in person is what makes UCG teaching quality higher.’

The small-scale intensive programme, with project-based education and extra-curricular activities makes UCG costly, resulting in higher tuition fees. Yearly standard fees at UCG are 4,195 euros. This year, following the reduction it amounts to 3,125 euros, which is a 25 percent reduction.

‘I believe it is still alright to have a higher fee than “regular” students,’ says Ben. But one thousand euros is not enough, he thinks. ‘Considering that last year we missed the essential features of our programmes. A reduction by 30 to 40 percent would have been fairer,’ concludes Ben.


At Campus Fryslân, the situation isn’t much different. Kavishya, a second-year student in global responsibility and leadership, says: ‘Our uni is very much based on group work, a lot of our studies rely on projects and the community.’ This also was affected by the pandemic. She had hoped for more, as well.

For both Ben and Kavishya, another issue was communication. When they heard about reductions last year, it was about halving fees. But what the university meant is that they were halving only the regular tuition fees. ‘They could have been more precise, and explained more, especially in our case, thus matching reality to expectations,’ says Ben.

As international students, we were hit really hard by the pandemic

The reduction is even smaller in percentages for Pengfei, a third-year student at UCG. He is from China which means his discount only amounted to 15 percent, as his tuition fees were lowered from 12,600 to 11,766 euros.

Parents’ support

‘I am grateful, but I cannot say that the reduction had a great impact on me,’ he says. ‘They could have been a bit more thoughtful of internationals, as we often cannot access to Dutch loans and mostly rely on our parents’ support.’

‘As international students,’ says Pengfei, ‘we were hit really hard by the pandemic. Over the past years we have been often really far from home and unable to move back. With the university being closed, we even had no real possibility to get integrated.’

He feels the UCG is ‘getting far from what it should be,’ he says. And so he expects that ‘UCG would do more to compensate for this and promote integration’.

Two fees

The halving of tuition fees only applied to the fees as determined by the Dutch government. But small-scale intensive programmes’ tuition fees consist not only of a statutory fee set by the government, but also of an institutional fee, set by the university, of roughly another two thousand euros. As for any programme this year, the Dutch government halved the statutory fee, but the university fee remained the same. This is a big difference.

Halving the institutional fee was simply not financially feasible for UCG, says managing director Sander van den Bos. ‘The fees of UCG are higher also because our costs are higher. We would have loved to decrease even more, but we just couldn’t.’ According to him, UCG and CF are in line with other colleges in the Netherlands, which also only applied the reduction provided by the government.

Level of education

‘Despite enormous difficulties, UCG staff has been commendable in maintaining the level of education,’ says Van den Bos, who appreciates the work of the UCG staff so far.

However, he believes the real priority is to give students a normal university experience again. ‘We invested quite heavily in academic guidance in order to provide better support to students, especially internationals, as they tend to be quite isolated during Covid.’

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