Minister working on support plan for Ukrainian students

Educational institutions want the Ministry of Education to help fund support for more than 500 Ukrainian refugee students. Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Dennis Wiersma promised on Wednesday to look into the matter.

In a letter to education ministers Robbert Dijkgraaf and Dennis Wiersma, the UAF (a foundation for refugee students) it was argued that refugee students should be offered the same facilities as Dutch students, and that special attention needs to be paid to Ukrainian refugees. The letter was co-signed by the vocational schools and the higher education institutions, and the issue was discussed in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Tuition fees

Ukraine is not a member of the European Economic Area, which means that Ukrainian students would normally have to pay the higher institutional tuition fees. To ease the pain a little, universities of applied sciences and research universities are only charging Ukrainian refugees the normal tuition fees paid by Dutch students this year. The letter writers are now calling on the government to maintain these reduced tuition fees in the years ahead.

This spring, Minister Dijkgraaf contributed 3.3 million euros to emergency student aid through the profiling funds. At the time, he was not willing to reimburse the higher education institutions for their tuition fee reductions, which have been offered to more than 500 Ukrainian students, according to a spokesperson – 288 at universities of applied sciences and 277 at research universities.

Too non-committal

In a committee debate, D66 MP Paul van Meenen asked if there would be additional compensation for the high costs faced by these vulnerable students. Minister Wiersma, who also answered questions on higher education during the debate, said that the institutions themselves should decide what measures are needed.

Van Meenen felt that Wiersma’s response was too non-committal. ‘That means it depends on the goodwill of the institutions.’ GroenLinks MP Lisa Westerveld wanted the institutions to agree on guidelines in consultation with the ministry, while also underscoring the need for additional support ‘for both Ukrainian and other refugee students’. She wants to prevent institutions from reverting to their normal tuition fees. ‘That would be a very unpleasant surprise for refugees.’

No distinctions

Wiersma promised to explore possible solutions with Dijkgraaf, but also noted that he wants to avoid ‘distinctions being made based on where people come from’. He said that Dijkgraaf was working on a plan and would soon send a letter to the House of Representatives.

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