Often international students are considered to be wealthy, from a middle or upper-class family, where mummy and daddy pay for their opportunities abroad. Admittedly, the stereotype is often correct. But that doesn’t mean it is the case for everyone.
Dutch regulations on EU student access to loans means that for many working or lower-middle-class students, studying at the UvA is either unimaginable or at least requires a lot more risk and hard work. Non-Dutch EU students have access to a tuition loan that covers their fees throughout their studies. However, when it comes to covering living costs, which we all know in Amsterdam are eye-watering high, there are a few more hoops to jump through. Students can access the right to the DUO living cost loan by contributing 56 hours a month of paid work to the Dutch economy and in turn receive the same loan Dutch students can.
At a glance, this may seem fair to some, contributing to the system in return for financial aid. Although, the consequences of this are significant and felt in many different aspects of life, before even mentioning its contra-EU policy of treating all fair and equal under the union.
Admittedly, this is also a struggle shared by Dutch students, for who, thanks to Amsterdam’s lofty prices, the DUO loan remains insufficient. Working around 15 hours a week may not seem like much but for those who have to do it, and do it consistently, the impacts are far-reaching.
Romanian UvA student Stefana Vizman believes that her friends who are working to meet this criteria ‘put in a lot more effort’ and it gives them ‘less time to focus on their studies’, going on to explain how she has even witnessed ‘a big gap in terms of grades’ as a result.
British and former European Studies student Paul Doherty who, Brexit aside, was an EU member during his studies explained that he feels as though ‘the current system expects all international students to be helped financially by the parents’. Which we know is not always the case. He feels as though ‘the 56-hour requirement is nothing but a punishment on international students from middle-low income backgrounds’, framing the problem as a class-based issue. Not only is the process to access the loan lengthy and tiresome, often leaving students ‘out of pocket’, students are also left in tens of thousands of euros of debt.
But what can be done? Its widely acknowledged that the UvA faces funding issues in almost every aspect, making support for international students facing this problem seem, well, impossible. Is it even really their job? In an interconnected European Union centred around unity and equality, should there not be a possibility for a European style loan?