As the terms of the United Kingdom’s split from the EU on the 29th of March remain unclear, British students at Dutch universities fear a steep increase in their tuition fees. Brexit could especially affect those students aiming to start a new degree in September.
By Sophie Pizzimenti and Juliane Glahn
In 2018, a total of 2,550 British students were enrolled at a university in the Netherlands. At some institutions, they make up the second largest group of internationals, such as at the University of Groningen, where 470 British students are currently enrolled.
One of those students is Jade Turner, who came to Groningen for a degree in marketing. To qualify, she started a pre-master in the fall of 2018.“ They said that upon completion of all the relevant modules and all the 60 credits that I’ll be automatically enrolled to the master’s,” says Turner. Based on this, she assumed that there would not be a separate application process. “I made a choice: okay, I’m gonna commit two years instead of one year to this place.”
A few weeks ago, Turner, along with all other British students, received an email from the University of Groningen stating that students who are already enrolled in a program before the 29th of March will see no change in their tuition fee. However, British students starting a new degree in September 2019 might no longer be allowed to pay the statutory fee (around 2,000 euros) and will instead have to pay the non-EU student fee, which can be as much as 20,000 euros per year.
“Why am I investing in Dutch?”
Since she is already enrolled in a pre-master’s program, Turner assumed she would not have to worry about her tuition fees post-Brexit. She checked with the university for reassurance and discovered that she may have to pay a non-EU student fee if she wishes to pursue the master’s program she is preparing for. In an email from Central Student Administration, Turner was informed that her pre-master does not count as enrolment for a master’s program, and that there is nothing the university can do to help her.
“It depends a little bit on the kind of Brexit it will be, but based on the information we have right now, it is said that if someone will start from the 1st of April with a new program then it will be seen as a non-European citizen and then indeed it will be a higher tuition fee,” the Central Student Administration Office of the University of Groningen confirms.
“It makes me feel really uncertain, really demotivated for the new block,” says Turner. “It all happened on my first day back during my first lecture and I thought, well, what am I doing going to this lecture, what am I doing going to my Dutch course, why am I investing in Dutch?”
A surge in fees could discourage potential British students from applying to a Dutch university. According to Bart Los, Professor of the Economics of Technological Progress and Structural Change, British students started looking outside of their home borders after UK schools significantly increased their costs starting in 2012. “The Netherlands is an attractive place to study instead, in view of the relatively low fees for EU students and the wide availability of programs taught in English,” says Los.With the lack of a British deal for leaving the European Union, it remains unclear whether they will continue to benefit from the lower fees.
The Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security sent a letter to all British residents in the Netherlands informing them of their position after the 29thof March. The letter states that all British citizens currently registered as residents in the Netherlands will maintain the same rights as before Brexit for the transition period lasting until July 1, 2020.No word of this was mentioned in the email by the University of Groningen.
Bennet Aboagye is a medical student at the University of Groningen. Like Turner and other British students, he was confused by the contradictory messages from the government and from the university.The medical programme is a combined course, which means that the bachelor’s degree is useless outside of the Netherlands without a master’s degree. Students have to obtain the full medical degree in order to enrol in further specialisations and become a doctor.
Students of medicine who can no longer afford to stay in the country might lose their entire study progress and the money they already invested. “If I go somewhere else, I have to start from scratch,” he says. “This is going to be a huge, huge step back.”
British students in Groningen feel like the university is not offering enough support. “I don’t blame the university, because the UK decided to leave the EU,” says Aboagye. “My sort of issue is that I think they should be more accommodating to students who are already here.” Since programmes such as medicine are a combined study, he is asking to find a way for those already signed up to finish.
Turner reached out to the university advisory team to try and continue her studies with EU fees but was told that there is nothing that can be done about it. “I feel really left alone by the university,” says Turner. She criticizes the university for not warning their students sooner and better about what switching from a pre-master to a master could mean. “If it came to paying 15,000 now, I would take my 15,000 elsewhere because there has been no support.”
Ultimately, students and universities must wait for the outcome of Brexit negotiations. Until then, newly enrolled British students continue to face the possibility of soon having to pay far more expensive international tuition fees.