Obstacles to studying abroad removed

Studying abroad will become more attractive. Dutch universities will be able to reduce or even waive tuition fees for students doing joint and dual degree programmes at an institution in the Netherlands and a partner institution abroad; the Doctor’s degree will be made equivalent to the PhD (in line with practice in other countries), and students wanting to go abroad can apply to their institution’s financial support fund for a grant.

Education minister Jet Bussemaker has announced all these measures in a bill to promote the internationalisation of higher education. Its text has been posted on Internetconsultatie.nl, the government internet forum on which the public may respond to plans for new legislation. The aim is to promote the internationalisation of education by removing obstacles confronting students who want to study abroad. International experience greatly helps students to acquire knowledge, skills and professional competences. It also contributes to their personal development and helps them to form their identity.

No more double tuition fees

To date, joint and dual degree programmes between Dutch institutions or between Dutch institutions and partners abroad have not proved popular among either the institutions themselves or their students, mainly because the students (both Dutch and foreign) often have to pay double tuition fees.

Under the bill, new tuition fee regulations are to be introduced for these programmes. Dutch institutions may lower or waive tuition fees for students studying for joint or dual degrees. This means that foreign students who have already paid tuition fees in their own country will be exempt from paying them in the Netherlands. The same will apply to Dutch students studying abroad. If they are enrolled at a Dutch institution they will not have to pay tuition fees at the foreign institution. Institutions themselves will make the necessary arrangements.

To reduce red tape, students doing joint or dual degree programmes may be required to enrol for the entire period at the institution in the Netherlands.

Financial support fund

Regulations will be adapted so that institutions can provide financial support for students wanting to do part of their degree abroad. This will give students an extra incentive to gain international experience. An example of this kind of financial support is the Holland Scholarship programme, for which funds have already been earmarked.

Choice of study

In the Netherlands, aspiring students need to register for their higher education course by 1 May. They then have to sit a test to establish course suitability and enable students and courses to be matched. Under the new bill, foreign students will also have to sit the test. They will be able to do this from their own countries, either online, by phone or via Facetime.

Doctor and Doctor of Philosophy

From now on, Dutch universities may award the degree of both Doctor and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Up to now, Dutch law only recognised the title of Doctor, while PhD is more generally used abroad. Equivalence will make it more attractive for scholars to work together at international level and to do their doctorates in the Netherlands.

PhD supervisors

Previously, universities had to appoint professors as PhD supervisors. They can now appoint other members of the university staff, for example senior lecturers. This will improve career prospects for researchers in the Netherlands and is in line with international trends. The Doctorate Board decides who may act as PhD supervisors.

This bill forms part of Ms Bussemaker’s strategy to improve the quality of higher education. She will shortly publish her Strategic Agenda for higher education, setting out her plans for the coming years.