Using profiling fund
No need to worry anymore: UU finds solution for flex students
UU believes that students should not be the victims of the minister’s unexpected decision. The university still hopes that the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science will come up with a permanent solution but, if that does not happen, it will compensate participating students concerned by using the profiling fund. Just like in previous years, these students will only have to pay the credits for the courses they actually take.
By doing this, UU is breaking the deadlock in the air since the day the Minister of Education, Robbert Dijkgraaf, decided not to legally enshrine flexible learning for the time being, despite a positive evaluation of the experiment and to the dismay of universities and student unions.
The minister intended to include "flexible learning" in an exploration of the future of higher education he is working on. That's why he caught everyone by surprise when he put the flexible learning pilot to an abrupt end from the next academic year onwards. To the students involved in the project, the announcement brought substantial financial uncertainty.
The pilot was intended for students for whom studying full-time is challenging or impossible, such as top athletes, informal carers, employee representatives, students with a disability, and students with a job or company of their own. For some of those students, participating in the pilot was a one-year solution, while others intended to use the scheme for longer.
In addition to the teacher training programs of the Graduate School of Teaching, flexible learning was available at four of UU’s Master’s programmes and two Bachelor’s programmes at the Faculty of Humanities, one Master’s programme at Geosciences and one Master's programme at the Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance. These programs had to adjust the information provided to students about this topic at the last minute.
About 130 students made use of the flexible learning scheme. Those who will be affected by the minister's decision will now be offered a solution by the university, which believes that due to the former policy, this group has expectations that need to be met. For example, students enrolled in the Master’s programme in Sports Policy and Management followed a two-year programme in which fifty percent of the time was dedicated to classes and the other fifty percent to internships. To do this, they paid half the regular tuition fee twice. Due to the minister's decision, these students were suddenly in danger of having to pay the full tuition fee for their second year.
Dutch universities spent months trying to get the ministry to come up with an arrangement for the students concerned, and they did not understand why an experiment that was revealing to be successful was suddenly being terminated. They also wondered what this would mean for disadvantaged students. The ministry has not made a formal decision on the termination of the pilot.
After an urgent letter from the universities, the universities of applied sciences and student unions, things seem to finally be on the move. But that doesn’t mean the ministry will come up with a quick fix for the affected students. According to a UU policy officer, the ministry is considering prolonging the experiment for two more years, though this requires an opinion from the State Council and the House of Representatives.
UU did not consider it responsible to make affected students wait for the outcome of that process, which is why the Executive Board announced that students will be compensated from the profiling fund.
The university acknowledges that this expense may not be entirely in line with a fund intended to compensate for study delays due to personal circumstances. However, it reckons that, in light of the circumstances, the ministry will not give it a hard time about that.
The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science did not respond to DUB’s questions about universities' criticism and the possible continuation of the experiment. A spokesperson said in an e-mail: “The ministry is currently mapping out how it should deal with (the termination of) the flexible learning experiment. Minister Dijkgraaf will inform Parliament, participating institutions and students about this soon.”