Free courses annoy early arrivals

International students are given free Dutch courses – but not if they arrived before 2013. Earlier arrivals are annoyed.

A basic, 26-hour course in Dutch costs €160 when you’re a student – and that’s with a discount. Normally you’d pay €300, which is a lot of money.

The Board of the University thought so, too, and decided to make the courses free from this year onwards. However, 18-year old Mayowa Oduola, who is from the UK, arrived last semester. ‘It is really annoying’, she said. She’s studying Economics and Business Economics. ‘I really want to learn Dutch, to be able to get a job and start paying my own way without relying on my mother. But if you don’t speak Dutch, opportunities are really scarce.’

She had hoped the course would help her. ‘I was trying to scrape the money together and save up, when a friend told me it would be free next year. It was such a relief! Then I found out it was just for new students.’


American Studies student Holly West feels the same way. ‘I’m extremely frustrated’, she claims. Holly enrolled in the programme a month ago and paid €160 for a 13-week course of one lesson a week. ‘I can’t understand why they couldn’t have extended the offer to all students, regardless of when they started.’

Despite the cost, Holly is still determined. ‘When you’re going to live in a country for three years, it’s good to at least speak some of the language’, she says. ‘But I still think it is unfair.’

Director Anje Dijk of the Language Centre points out that the Centre itself has had no say in the matter. ‘The courses aren’t really free either. It’s the Board of the University that pays for them. However, we can imagine that some students are disappointed.’

She did manage to get the starting date brought forward. ‘The courses were supposed to start in September. This way, more students benefit.’

Draw the line

Sibrand Poppema, President of the Board of the University, claims that the Dutch lessons were made free to encourage more international students in the long term. ‘It’s crucial that they learn Dutch. It’s of great importance to the Dutch economy that more international students stay in the Netherlands. That’s why we decided to offer free Dutch courses.’

He agrees that students who enrolled before this year are getting an unfair deal. ‘However, we have to draw the line somewhere. This is our starting point. It’s unfair, yes, these things always are.’