Student grants will be abolished in the Netherlands from the next academic year, following the upper house of parliament’s vote in favour of the move on Tuesday night.
The ruling parties were backed by the left-wing green party GroenLinks and the D66 Liberal democrats, passing the legislation by 36 votes to 29.
The new measure will come into effect on September 1 and means most students will have to borrow more to pay for their studies. Students already in the middle of a degree course will not be affected.
Special student public transport cards giving free travel at certain times will not be phased out, as the government had originally planned, and will also now be available to vocational college students.
Education minister Jet Bussemaker says the end of grants will release €1bn for further investment in higher education, although concrete details have not been worked out.
Student campaigners say the measure will add €15,000 to the average student’s debt by the time they have completed their bachelor and master’s degrees.
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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