Organisation helped students pretend they had a job

Fraudulent scheme allowed 260 Romanians to obtain student finance

Rechtspraak. Bron: Pixabay
Photo: Pixabay

A few months ago, Groningen University magazine UKrant reported (article in Dutch, Ed.). that a Romanian organisation was helping students from that country commit fraud against the Dutch Education Executive Agency (DUO). The same organisation also also duped Romanian students and their families.

The scheme worked as follows: the student’s family gave a sum of money to the organisation, GCRS, which then transferred the funds to the student as a "salary", supposedly for freelance journalism work. That "salary" allowed the student to apply for student finance at DUO, as Europeans need to work a certain number of hours to be eligible for study financing in the Netherlands. After obtaining financing from DUO, the students transferred the money back to their own families, who used it to make another donation to GCRS.

The scheme was uncovered by Romanian journalists (article in Romanian, Ed.). It was working smoothly until GCRS stopped paying out the "salaries". The students and their families told UKrant that they lost the money they had transferred.

Dutch MP Pieter Omtzigt, who has long been concerned about international students securing loans in the Netherlands, submitted written parliamentary questions about the revelations. Amongst other things, he wanted to know how many Romanian students received financing thanks to GCRS.

According to the ministry, approximately 260 students did that, 45 this academic year. It could have been many more as there are about 6,700 Romanian students in the Netherlands. 

Parliamentary questions
Can DUO do anything against such schemes? Not really, since it is only allowed to assess whether students are entitled to study finance, according to the answers given by the outgoing Minister of Education, Robbert Dijkgraaf. “DUO is therefore not authorised to independently investigate the activities of a particular organisation.” 

Dijkgraaf is nonetheless committed to taking action against this type of scheme. He said that the Ministry of Education will “review what is necessary and possible to curb abuses further."

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