Late graduation fine a ‘hard blow’ for Dutch students, unions say

Student organisations urge new coalition government to scrap €3,000 ‘late study fine’ in open letter

June 11, 2024
Action shot of a wrecking ball doing its work.
Source: iStock/dhyams

Dutch student organisations have condemned plans to fine students who delay their degree by more than a year, calling on the newly formed coalition government to scrap the measure.

Following the shock success of the Party for Freedom (PVV) in November’s general election, three more parties agreed to form a coalition with the far-right, anti-Islam group, resulting in the Netherlands’ most right-wing government in decades.

Alongside drastic cuts to research and higher education funding, the outline agreement released by the coalition included the introduction of a €3,000 (£2,500) “late study fine”, prompting immediate outcry from student groups.

Now the Dutch Student Union (LSVb), the Dutch National Student Association (ISO), the National Chamber of Associations (LKvV) and the Youth Organisation for Vocational Education (JOBmbo) have addressed a letter to the new government, which as been signed by 40 additional social and political youth organisations.

Describing the late-study fine as a “hard blow for students”, the organisations say the measure would increase financial pressure on students, limiting the accessibility of higher education. The fine would also “worsen mental well-being problems among students”, they say, pointing to a 2023 study by the Trimbos Institute, a mental health thinktank, that found that students already experienced “excessive pressure and stress”. Students with mental health issues often require extra time to complete their degrees, the letter notes.

“Students are suffering one financial blow after another,” said LSVb chair Elisa Weehuizen. “The basic grant is being reduced, rents are rising to absurd levels and tuition fees are going up. Student life has become unaffordable. The new government ignores these concerns; in fact, the late-study fine punishes students even further.”

“With this measure, politicians once again show that the mental health of students is at the bottom of the priority list. This hits students who are already having a hard time,” JOBmbo chair Miray Özügüzel said.

A fine could also dissuade students from participating in extracurricular activities, the student organisations say in the open letter, suggesting that “students who are top athletes, students with participation, board or committee positions, volunteers and many other groups of students who delay because they are committed to society” could be “severely punished” by the measure. An estimated 94,000 students a year would be compelled to pay the additional €3,000, the groups say.

The late-study fine is a revival of a previous measure introduced by the now-outgoing prime minister Mark Rutte’s first Cabinet, which prompted the LSVb, the ISO and the LKvV to take legal action. While their lawsuit was largely unsuccessful and the €3,000 fine took effect in September 2012, the coalition government subsequently collapsed and the measure was scrapped.

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