Fewer students sign up for a master’s straight away since grants were abolished

A meeting for international students in Leiden. Photo: Brandon Hartley
A meeting for international students in Leiden. Photo: Brandon Hartley

The number of students starting a bachelor’s degree has not gone down since the abolition of student grants in the Netherlands in 2015, but fewer students are signing up for a master’s degree straight away, new research shows.

National statistics agency CBS tracked the behaviour of several hundred thousand students from 2014, the year before grants were abolished.

That year, 85% of graduates started on a master’s degree immediately after completing a bachelor, but by 2018, that had gone down to 70%, the CBS said.

In addition, the abolition of grants has not had an impact on the speed at which students graduate or on the number changing courses, the CBS said. Nor has it reduced the number of pupils from more disadvantaged backgrounds studying.

Potential students from very low income households are still entitled to some government support. They are also more likely than students from wealthy backgrounds to complete a master’s degree within one year, the CBS said.


Some 70% of students borrow money while studying and they leave college and university with an average debt of around €25,000.

There is, however, mounting pressure for grants to be brought back

Two of the four parties which backed their abolition – GroenLinks and the PvdA – are now calling for change and two of the four coalition parties – the CDA and ChristenUnie – also support a return to grants.

Prior to the abolition of grants, students who live away from home were given €260 a month towards their upkeep and college fees. The rest they could borrow and on average they left university or college with some €15,000 in debts.

Education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven has calculated that if grants are brought back, compensating students who ran up larger debts would cost the treasury between €1.4bn and €11bn, depending on how it is worked out.

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