The following is the text that was read by the students that filled the poll that STURA was doing (in march-may 2019 about the increase of the tuition fees). It can be considered as a summary of the facts that STURA has researched, and it might be useful as a reference for future discussions about the issue.
The poll was made in this page: http://www.sturakuleuven.be/en/tuition/
What Are These Raises Exactly?
In 2014 the Flemish government stipulated some changes regarding all tuition fees for the Flemish universities. Apart from the raises to €922,3 for all EEA-students, it was decided that no limit would exist on the fees for students from outside the European Economic Area. The legal reasoning behind this is that no taxes benefiting the EEA are being paid by these students.
The KU Leuven then introduced three categories of possible raised tuition fees, €1750, €3500 and €6000. From thereon, faculties could decide autonomously which tariff they installed for non-EEA students. Four years after the changes in the decree, 11 of 16 faculties have gradually raised at least one of their programmes. This has hence been a process over a longer period of time.
Why is This Being Debated Right Now?
On two different levels a new light has been shone on the tuition fees. Firstly, the policy plan of 2017-2021 provides an angle: KU Leuven is aiming for more and better international students, while focussing on more diversity within the student population as well.
It is within this train of thought that the KU Leuven is debating raising the fees for non-EEA students to one standardized raised fee. This decision is expected to bring clarity, for incoming students as well as for marketing purposes, and should provide the financial means to keep evolving the KU Leuven towards a Truly International university.
The second perspective criticizes the very idea of increased tuition fees for non-EEA students. The question is raised whether the diversity at KU Leuven will suffer from the raises and whether this actually is an effective means of attracting better students.
So, What’s The Current Plan?
As already mentioned, the KU Leuven is considering if the tariff can be redefined to one, standardized university-wide fee. The exact number is not yet decided upon.
As to also take into account the faculties that momentarily have not raised their fees and to guarantee diversity, an additional waiver- or grant system will be installed. Students can receive a bursary based on predetermined criteria, such as their socioeconomic status or their academic excellence within their field of study. These criteria are not yet decided upon, but it does however look like every faculty will be able to autonomously decide a big portion of their focus.
It is important to keep in mind that these decisions must be made well in advance of the upcoming academic year. Hence, the earliest possible year to see new changes to the fees would be 2020-2021.
How Many Students Are We Talking About?
Only students from outside of the European Economic Area enrolling in a bachelors or initial masters programme are affected. Some categories of students do however not pay the increased fees:
- Students with a refugee-status
- Students who are a family member of a subject of the EEA
- Students who have been living in Belgium for one whole year, without the use of a work or study visa
- Students enrolled in a programme, right when the fees of their programme are being raised.
During the academic year 2018-2019, 1291 of 5000 non-EEA students did pay the raised fee; one fourth of all current non-EEA students. This number will most probably increase, since the last category of exemptions will become less and less relevant.