Non-European students who are planning to start their BA of MA at the Institute of Philosophy next year, will have to dish out extra money in order to do so. The Institute, it has been revealed, will be raising the tuition fee from the standard 906 euro to a whopping 3.500 euro. A remarkable and even unprecedented decision within the initial bachelor and masters programmes at KU Leuven.
The Institute of Philosophy offers a full English-language programme next to the traditional Dutch curriculum. This programme, which contains roughly half of the 939 students at the Institute, is now becoming more expensive. Perhaps even more remarkable is the very specific arrangement for students who obtain an ‘excellent’ score. Those who have a cumulative study efficiency of 90% and score an average higher than 70%, can expect a reduction of his or her tuition fee. Excellence, it appears, is rewarded, even on a financial level.
‘With the current structures and budget, we are unable to offer the necessary support’
Students who come from within the European Economic Area (the so-called EEA-students, red.), which includes Belgium and The Netherlands, amongst other, will not be influenced by the decision. There are also dispensations for doctoral students and for non-EEA students who have already started their programme. This last category will still enjoy the standard tuition fee for the next five years. Furthermore, international students who come from verified low-income countries can remain at ease. They will not be required to pay even an extra dime.
‘When it concerns students from outside the European Economic Area, it is up to the institution (i.e., the university or other higher education system) to determine the tuition fees in a “free and motivated fashion”,’ states Minister of Education Hilde Crevits in a reaction through her spokesperson. ‘The fees can be different for each faculty, but it is still the institution itself that has the final decision’. At this moment, it remains unclear whether KU Leuven agrees with the plans at the Institute of Philosophy.
The new arrangement is put in place in order to meet the increasing demand for psychosocial coaching, claims the deanery. And of course, more coaching requires extra funds. ‘With the current structures and budget, we are unable to offer the necessary support’, states dean Gerd Van Riel. ‘We notice that students expect their faculty to be not only a place of learning, but also a place where they are coached in the process of forming a personality.’
‘In comparison to British, American or even Dutch universities, where you pay extra for more support, Leuven is still very comfortable'
For the time being, the increased tuition fees and the corresponding plan to increase personal coaching will only be enforced at the Institute of Philosophy. According to the dean, it is not coincidental that it is here that the need for more support is at its highest. ‘Perhaps philosophy, as a programme, attracts more students who are still questioning their own identity and thus have a propensity to get lost easier’, he says. Van Riel underlines the fact that he does not intend to start an independent student healthcare centre. ‘The coaching does not involve any professional psychosocial guidance’, he says. ‘Doing so might actually do more harm than good’.
‘Students can come to us if they wish to discuss loneliness or drops of confidence. We want to present the faculty as an accessible first line of contact, which can refer people with more serious complaints to professional care. We are considering whether someone from our staff could possibly fill in the position’. Whilst the decision about the tuition fees has already been taken, this final plan is yet to be approved by the board of the Institute.
Are the English programmes now unreasonably expensive? Van Riel disagrees, and refers to other countries and their tuition fees. ‘So far, there have been no negative or angry responses’, he claims. ‘In comparison to British, American or even Dutch universities, where you pay extra for more support, Leuven is still very comfortable. On the international plan, our education programmes are very cheap. So cheap, even, that at certain moments, international students figured there had to be something wrong with our programme for it to be so inexpensive’.