The UKrant article is headlined ‘Romanian NGO runs DUO scam’. But Romanian students themselves have also been duped in their dealings with GCRS, a shady organisation that promised to help them secure student finance.
The fraud works as follows. The student’s family ‘donates’ a sum of money to GCRS, which then transfers the funds to the student, supposedly as payment for freelance journalism work. That ‘income’ allows the recipient to apply to the Education Executive Agency (DUO) for student finance. The student then transfers the money from GCRS back to their own family, who can use it to make another donation to the organisation, and so on. The trick was uncovered by Romanian journalists from the news website PressOne.
A number of Romanian students told UKrant how they were also scammed. The scheme worked smoothly for a while, but at a certain moment GCRS stopped paying out. The students and their relatives lost the money they had transferred. According to the organisation, the payments had merely been delayed due to unspecified ‘circumstances’.
According to the latest figures, 6,700 Romanians are studying in the Netherlands. Of them, 5,700 are undergraduates. Only Germany and Italy send more international students here.
The number of Romanian students in Dutch higher education has been rising for several years. In 2015, there were just 1,600. At that time Romania ranked tenth in the list of countries of origin.
MP Pieter Omtzigt has submitted written parliamentary questions to the government about these recent revelations. Amongst other things, he wants to know how many Romanian students have been receiving student finance in the Netherlands thanks to GCRS.
Omtzigt has long been concerned that foreign students secure entitlement to a Dutch basic grant and other student finance too quickly. He wants the government to take preventive measures, but that will not be easy due to European free-movement rules.