How much would it cost to make second degrees cheaper?

First-time university students pay more than 2,100 euros in tuition fees annually for a Bachelor's or Master's degree. Since 2010, those who want to do a second degree have to pay thousands of euros more: seven to ten thousand euros for a second law degree is very common for example, and some courses charge more than 15 thousand euros per year.

There are still exceptions. Those who retrain to enter the healthcare sector or education pay the standard rate; these are sectors with staff shortages and the government does not want to deter anyone from switching to one of these fields. But how about an English teacher who also wants to become a German teacher? They have to pay extra.

Study fine
D66 refers to this high fee as the 'study fine' and other parties have waited for some time for the Minister to confirm how much it would cost the government to revert back to paying for second degrees for everyone or even just allow for some more exceptions. With the general election approaching, it is an interesting question.

Minister Van Engelshoven has no intention of changing the law. She will not find any support for that from the current government. But at the request of parliament she was willing to provide some clarity on the various options.

The most expensive option is to revert back to the previous system, in which everyone could take a second Bachelor's and Master's degree course at the standard tuition rate. If the number of ‘second degree' students remained unchanged, this decision would cost 90 million euros per year. However, if the number of students doubled then the cost would also increase to up to 180 million euros.

If the standard tuition fees only applied to second Master's programmes, it would be much cheaper for the government: 25 to 50 million euros per year.

But how expensive is switching within healthcare or education? What would it cost if a German teacher could retrain as a Dutch teacher at the statutory rate, or if a physiotherapist could retrain as a nurse? Also 25 to 50 million euros per year, according to the minister.

Engineering and IT
Similarly, engineering and IT have also been identified as sectors with significant shortages in the labour market. If those second degrees also become less expensive, this will cost the treasury an additional 10 to 20 million euros.

Furthermore, Minister Van Engelshoven decided in early 2018 that institutional tuition fees for Dutch and European students should be capped. The degree programmes will soon be able to charge at most what the government normally pays per student, plus the regular tuition fee. In September, she submitted her bill to parliament.

Back in April, Van Engelshoven did not feel inclined to make obtaining a second teaching qualification cheaper. Students already receive a one-off discount of 3,500 euros on institutional tuition fees. But the General Union of Educational Personnel (AOb) believes that the institutional fee for second teacher training programmes should be scrapped entirely.

Van Engelshoven emphasises in her letter that she only had the calculations made at the request of parliament. “This is not a concrete policy plan.”