Several thousand students took part in a noisy demonstration in The Hague on Friday to protest at the government’s decision to stop giving new students grants from the next academic year.
Education minister Jet Bussemaker attempted to address the crowd but was shouted down by the protestors. Several tomatoes and bottles were also thrown at the stage, news agency ANP said.
Many of the demonstrators were school pupils who hope to be going to unversity and college next year, Nos television reported. According to calculations by the national students union, they will end up with an extra €15,000 in debts at the end of their degrees.
The demonstration is unlikely to bring about a change of heart. The decision has already been approved in the lower house of parliament and has majority support in the senate.
Socialist Party leader Emile Roemer urged the students to continue their protests in a twitter message (photo above). ‘It’s not all over Jet,’ he said, using one of the demonstrators’ slogans.
The Council of State has criticised the government’s decision to scrap student grants, saying there is no certainty the savings will be ploughed back into education as pledged.
At the moment, Dutch students are given a basic grant of €279.14 if they live away from home and €100.25 if home-based. On average, they leave university with around €15,000 in debts. The loans are subject to interest rate rises.
The new rules state that students whose parents earn less than €46,000 a year or whose parents cannot be traced will still be entitled to a grant.
Students will have 35 years to pay back the loan once they have graduated and do not have to start repaying their debt until they earn at least the minimum wage.
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