The Dutch government provides study finance for all its citizens enrolled in higher education. Some foreign students are also eligible for study finance under the same conditions as Dutch students. This mostly applies to students who are citizens of one of the member states of the European Union.
Shift in system
Students who started their study programme before September 1st 2015 will see their study finance converted from a loan into a gift, if they manage to complete the programme within ten years from having started it. Students who started their programme on or after September 1st 2015 are still eligible for study finance, but it will remain a loan regardless of their academic achievements. This applies regardless of citizenship.
The DUO approach to study finance for European Students
Students who hold the nationality of a member state of the European Union are eligible to receive study finance from the Dutch government, if they are economically active.
Being economically active means being employed, either with a company or being self-employed. The question of whether a person is economically active is dictated by European law. DUO (the Dutch study finance agency) has published guidelines that provide insight into how they judge whether someone is economically active.
When an EU-student applies for study finance with DUO, they receive it by way of advance (anticipation). DUO then requests the student to periodically send them pay slips or other material which proves how many hours the student in question has worked. If DUO is convinced the student has worked, on average, more than 56 hours a month they will acknowledge his/her right to study finance. If DUO is not convinced, they will ‘revoke‘ the right to study finance and the student will have to pay everything back.
So the rules DUO applies are simple: if you have worked on average more than 56 hours a month, you are eligible for study finance. If you have worked less, you are not.
This approach by DUO is incompatible with European law. The only correct rules are set out by the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Under European law, you are eligible for study finance if you are either a worker (e.g. employed by someone else) or self-employed.
Employed by someone else
The Court of Justice of the European Union holds, consistently in all its judgments, that a ‘worker’ is anyone who:
- Performs work;
- Under the supervision of another;
- Who is paid for this work.
The Court does not specify a minimum amount of hours to be worked or a minimum value in salary that must be earned. Anyone who meets the above three criteria is considered economically active under European law.
DUO is not allowed to deviate from European law, but that is exactly what they do.
If you are an EU-student who is employed but works less than 56 hours a month you are eligible for study finance. The information DUO provides about this is incorrect. The rules DUO applies are contrary to European law. We have already won several cases against DUO about this.
If DUO refuses to grant you study finance or has revoked your study finance it is important that you seek legal advice. You can appeal any decision DUO makes, but you must file your appeal within six weeks of the date of the decision. If you are too late, your appeal will not be processed.
EU-students who are self-employed are also eligible for study finance.
Self-employed means to conduct a business. Under EU law, that means to offer products or services on the market. Any self-employed student must make sure their undertaking is registered with the Dutch chamber of commerce (Kamer van Koophandel). Furthermore, they must be registered with the tax office and pay VAT. DUO will require proof of these things.
If a student fulfills the above, they are considered to be economically active under EU law and cannot be required to work a minimum of 56 hours a month. The information DUO provides about this is incorrect. If DUO refuses to grant you study finance or has revoked your study finance it is important that you seek legal advice. You can appeal any decision DUO makes, but you must file your appeal within six weeks of the date of the decision. If you are too late, your appeal will not be processed.
If your non-Dutch parent or partner is economically active in the Netherlands you may (also) be eligible for student finance.
Regardless of economic activity, if you have lived in the Netherlands for five consecutive years or more, you will be eligible for student finance.
The rules DUO applies with regards to foreign students conflict with European law. If you have the nationality of a member state of the EU and work less than 56 hours a month you are still entitled to study finance. However, you must appeal the decisions DUO takes. It is highly recommended to seek out legal advice. Our education law lawyers are ready to answer any questions you may have, free of charge.