Study Guide criticises error in starting salaries

[2016-15-11] • HOP, Irene Schoenmacker

Study Guide criticises error in starting salaries

University of applied sciences students who earn a couple of hundred euros more than their counterparts with a research university education? The Study Guide believed that this cannot be right, and it did its own calculation.

According to the University Study Guide in a report that appeared today, the information website, Studiekeuze123, published some quite odd figures in October. It appears that research university educated students’ salaries are far too low, while university of applied sciences students’ appeared to earn relatively high salaries.

It appears that a university of applied sciences graduate of religious studies earns 550 euros more than someone with a Master in Theology. A new calculation made by the Study Guide however, showed that the research university graduate in actual fact earns 300 euros more.

The discrepancy was caused by an error in calculation, says the Study Guide. In its figures, the Dutch university association, VSNU, included people who had not yet started a job or did not wish to disclose their salaries. This caused the average amounts to be lower. Further, additional income was included in the university of applied sciences graduates salaries, while part-time salaries were extrapolated to full-time salaries. These were not done for the research university graduates.

At the moment, some graduates find jobs more easily than others, says the Guide. There seems to be a split in professions. Technical, IT, medicine and economics graduates for example get jobs more quickly and earn quite well with an average gross income of 3,000 euros.

Political science, psychology and even biology graduates face more challenges, with 15 percent of them not in paid work after one year. Some of them, art historians and cultural anthropologists for example, have monthly salaries below 900 euros. They are at the top of the Guide’s so-called ‘crepeerindex’ – an index of the most poorly remunerated professions.

Anyone interested in high salaries should become a dentist. Dentists earn more than 5000 euros a month.

The research university education salaries have now been removed from the Studiekeuze123 website. The high university of applied sciences’ salaries will be revised. The Study Guide has been invited to give its input. The editorial team is pleased with this gesture.

University of applied sciences students who earn a couple of hundred euros more than their counterparts with a research university education?

ISO launches new website for students’ complaints

Students often get lost in a maze trying to find out where to lodge complaints. This is why the ISO and the Landelijk Studenten Rechtsbureau (national student legal advice bureau) are launching a special website today.

The number of complaints has never been so high, reports the Interstedelijk Studenten Overleg, the largest national student organisation in the Netherlands, glancing at news from the Hoger Onderwijs Persbureau, an press agency specialised in national news in the higher education and university sectors. Even its own legal advice bureau, the LSR, has received more complaints over the last few years.

This is why the organisations are launching the website today containing information about students’ rights. The website will enable students to see who to approach for complaints, for example the Examination Appeals Board, at a glance. They will also be able to access the Students’ Charter and the Education and Examination Rules and Regulations.

This initiative has Minister Bussemaker’s full support. “Students are independent and are able to speak up and stand up for themselves. But they should know their rights, even if they are not students of law.”

The ISO and Landelijk Studenten Rechtsbureau are launching the website, containing information about students’ rights, today.

President-elect Trump wants to reduce student loan debts

[2016-09-11] • HOP, Bas Belleman

President-elect Trump wants to reduce student loan debts

9 November 2016 – For students, having Donald Trump elected as the next President of the United States might be good news. He wants to reduce tuitions and solve the ‘student loan debt crisis’.

But we didn’t hear much about this during his campaign. Before the elections, almost all of the campaign focused on crude remarks and mud-slinging. Could he actually say that Clinton should go to prison? Did he really joke about grabbing a woman’s crotch?

Yet, Trump also talked about higher education. In a speech he gave in Ohio in October, he said that he wants to reduce tuitions and solve the ‘student loan debt crisis’. A student loan debt shouldn’t be a millstone around the neck for students for the rest of their life. ‘We’re gonna work it out, folks.’

Really hard
After graduation, student’s shouldn’t have to shell out more than 12.5 percent of their income to repay their student loan. And a student loan debt should be forgiven if not paid off within 15 years. ‘Hey, it’s really hard on young people.’

He also wants to force higher education institutions to reduce their skyrocketing tuition fees. ‘If the federal government is going to subsidise student loans, then colleges must be held accountable to invest in their students.’

If schools do not invest endowment money to reduce costs for students, Trump said the government may reconsider whether they deserve to keep those endowments tax-exempt. ‘They’ll have to do it, and not wait around either.’

In exchange, he would ease compliance with federal regulations to save colleges on these costs. He also emphasised that he would protect the right to free speech on campuses.

It was this last remark in particular that generated huge applause from the crowd. It surprised him. ‘Wow, you appreciate this even more than lower college costs! That’s impressive. What’s going on? That’s cool.’

The President of the United States doesn’t reign supreme, of course, so whether his plans will be realised is up for grabs. According to Hillary Clinton’s campaign team, these were simply empty promises that Trump made while hers were a lot more specific. She wanted to waive tuition for students attending a public educational institution if they were from families with incomes of less than $125,000 a year.

It should also be said that Donald Trump is facing a lawsuit involving his Trump University that offers private, non-accredited degree programmes in real estate, asset management and entrepreneurship. He is alleged to have given students false hopes. Trump, however, says that the judge is biased because of his Mexican heritage. The President-elect is expected to appear as a witness in this case this month.


Not everyone is happy with a stronger Degree Programme Advisory Committee

Degree Programme Advisory Committees sometimes have little power. It would probably be better if they would get a stronger voice, says the Educational Inspectorate. But not everyone is convinced of this.

New research presented by the Educational Inspectorate last Friday shows that there is little similarity in how Degree Programme Advisory Committee operate. “Their ambitions are still highly diverse,” emphasises inspector Martine Pol during a busy conference in Amersfoort.

Some Committees meet very often, others rarely and they often do thankless work. Half the Committee members say that they seldom or never receive responses from management. This will change, hopes the Inspectorate, if the Committees become stronger in a recent change of law turning them into official representative partners.

From September 2017 onwards, they will have the right of consent instead of only the right to give advice. Furthermore, their members, just as is the case with other representative bodies, will be elected officially.

Whipping up
The expectations of the ISO and Dutch Student Union are very high, it appeared during a panel discussion. But Thom de Graaf, chair of the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences, is less enthusiastic. The Committees should not all be tarred with the same brush, he warned. If everyone is satisfied with a degree programme, should you stimulate the Committee to have even higher aspirations, as the Inspectorate wants?

Martin Paul, Chair of the Board of Maastricht University, believes so: “It is highly desirable, even if the degree programmes and the Committees are good.” He too recognises that there are large differences, but this is why he thinks it is important that best practices are shared. For example on the new website about Committees.

In one of the many workshops, it appeared that the legal position of the Committees is still largely unclear. Just take the elections – what should they be like was the question of several conference participants. What would happen if a Committee does not even agree with the degree programme management, or, worse, with the elected Department Council too?

Education lawyer, Frank Hendriks, was unable to answer many of the questions because the law itself says little about this. The universities and universities of applied sciences will have to interpret much of this themselves. “It will be a source of joy for the institutions’ lawyers,” he jokes.

Not all conference participants are happy with the Committees’ right of consent. “Little changes for us,” says a Utrecht University Committee member. “Our advice is already taken seriously.” But one university of applied sciences lecturer considers it important that a Committee is stronger should the relationship with the Department Council not be that good. “Then you can fall back on the law.”

And should we be that happy with elections for Committee members? “Before you just applied,” says a student of the University of Groningen. “And the degree programme checked whether or not you were motivated. Now students may stand because they think it looks good on their CV and will have their friends vote for them.”

New contact point for problems with housing benefit

In a couple of months, lots of students will lose their independent address – they will start sharing their address with others. The Landelijke Studenten Vakbond (Dutch Student Union) anticipates problems with the rent subsidy and has opened a contact point.

From 1 January 2017, ‘non-independent’ rooms will not have their own address anymore. For example, students whose address is 84-A or 84-F, will simply live at number 84. From next year onwards, everyone living in student accommodation will have the same address.

This could have consequences on the housing benefit. One of the requirements is that the applicant’s income is not too high. Together, the students may earn too much, and will have to face the consequences.

As early as 2013, when it was announced, student housing associations and the Dutch Student Union warned that there would be problems with the ruling. At the beginning of this year, they came up with a solution – to make a separate, country-wide register of ‘non-independent units’. But Minister Blok saw no benefits too this, it was too expensive he said.

Jarmo Berkhout, chair of the Dutch Student Union, cannot predict how many students will be affected, but he is holding his breath. This is why there is now a contact point where students can go for complaints about housing benefits. To provide good information, the Union has also compiled a list of frequently asked questions.

Apart from this, the Tax Authority wants to prevent ‘households’ from being incorrectly merged and is taking note of the addresses. The system must clearly show who lives in which residence and whether he/she really has the right to housing benefit.

The House of Representatives wants more support for students with a functional disability

Minister Bussemaker needs to do more for disabled students, asserts the opposition in the House of Representatives. Many are shocked at the dropping of the basic grant.

The Dutch Student Union protested in The Hague last Monday. They wanted to draw attention to the challenges that students with a functional disability face in higher education. The Union built a classroom with a couple of empty spaces. The message was that those spaces were where disabled students should have sat.

With the debate about the education budget on the way, Minister Bussemaker must have anticipated the questions from the opposition. She sent the House of Representatives a list of all the measures in place for students with a functional disability.

They can apply to their university of applied sciences or university for financial support if they experience increasing study delay. They can receive 862.50 euro per month from the ‘profileringsfonds’ (profile fund). Municipalities too offer support, though this varies tremendously among municipalities.

The study grants also take disability into account. Students with disabilities have 1,200 euro waived if they graduate. This is about the amount of a one year basic grant for students living at home. And should students be unable to graduate because of chronic disability, the performance-related grant is gifted to them.

But these arguments could not convince the opposition. “A twenty percent drop in intake is unacceptable,” said MP Michel Rog, CDA. He wants to make it easier for students with a functional disability by, for example, giving them an extra grant for a year or by letting them pay through credits.

Even MP Eppo Bruins (ChristenUnie) expressed his concern. “Does the Minister agree that only information provision is not enough?” Does she not want to help these students anymore by giving them more money, for example?

Paul van Meenen (D66) pointed to the large differences between municipalities, to which students need to turn for support. “It is almost left to fate whether or not someone can study.” He also then wants to know what the minister is going to do about it.

In April, it appeared that Minister Bussemaker also expressed her concern about the decreasing intake of students with disabilities. She will answer the opposition’s questions tomorrow.

Education budget: minister recognises social drama in universities of applied sciences

The universities of applied sciences seem to be undergoing “a social drama” at the moment as so many young men of ethnic minorities are dropping out, said Minister Bussemaker yesterday evening in The House of Representatives. She is trying to turn this around, but is unable to convince everyone of her approach.

Equal opportunities in education was a major theme in the debate about the Cabinet’s education budget. The move from senior secondary vocational education to universities of applied sciences was of concern to many members of parliament: how can one ensure that talented senior secondary vocational education students can move into higher education?

In all sorts of ways, the Minister said. Better coaching, better information, special choices in senior secondary vocational education … everything is being tried to improve the transition from senior secondary vocational education to universities of applied sciences.

And that’s not where it ends, she emphasised. “It is the task of education to admit students and to keep them there and not let them drop out. Admitting students is one thing, but ensuring that they reach the finish line is completely different and more complicated.”

And what about the growing divide in society? This worries Minister Bussemaker, though she believes that the divide is not caused by the education system. Unequal opportunities are “a stubborn societal issue”.

These may be nice words, but just look at the Education in Primary Schools degree programme, once the largest university of applied sciences’ degree programme. Since strict admission requirements have been enforced, the intake has halved and the degree programme has become the course of white suburban girls in particular, said Rik Grashoff of GroenLinks. The admission requirements have shot themselves in the foot and have helped further the division.

But we have to maintain high standards, was Bussemaker’s response. The teaching profession is a “mega responsible job”. She finds it highly undesirable that at present so few ethnic minorities and senior secondary vocational education students enter the Education in Primary Schools degree programme, but she refuses to adapt the admission requirements.

Then invest in an intermediate course to bridge senior secondary vocational education and the PABO, Michel Rog (CDA) suggested. Tunahan Kuzu (Denk) agreed. He wants to see an intermediate year between senior secondary vocational education and Education in Primary Schools degree programme to boost the number of students from ethnic minorities.

Redundant, declared Minister Bussemaker, as the Cabinet is already doing a lot. There are several ways to support senior secondary vocational education students to enter the Education in Primary Schools degree programmes. “We want to create a situation in which all children of all classes in the Netherlands can identify with the teachers, male and female, and with role models in the classroom.”

Of course the for and against camps of the new student loan system clash about the costs of studying. Fewer students are going to universities of applied sciences, sneered the CDA. But this is already changing, was the answer. Furthermore, there were already fewer senior secondary vocational education students going to universities of applied sciences – this was already a trend and has nothing to do with the new student loan system.

Family caregiving has significant impact on students

One in six students takes care of a sick family member. But this is not without consequences.

Study delays due to alcohol: 47 million euros in damage

Alcohol-chugging students cost society around 47 million euros each year due to the resulting study delays.

‘Grant money only for higher education’

Using the income generated by the new loan system, the Dutch cabinet plans to increase the number of pupils going on to higher education.