Jelger de Boer, legal policy advisor at Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs, the Dutch education executive, told The PIE News that the technology will be used to identify which students are eligible for funding and whether students receive funding from both governments.
“Students won’t have to go through the cumbersome process of filling out forms that get lost in the mail”
Dutch law prohibits students from receiving double funding, de Boer said.
“To make sure that students are actually eligible to receive these financial loans we have to verify their enrolments at university,” he said.
Not all students are knowingly committing fraud, he added.
Funding can be a tuition fee discount or a government paying a tuition fee – some students do not realise that is considered funding.
According to de Boer, around 50% of Dutch students that go abroad with government funding, choose Belgium, making it an ideal partner for the pilot scheme.
Statistics from NUFFIC show there were 3,800 Dutch students enrolled in tertiary study programs in Belgium and 5,585 individuals received government grants or loans to finance their studies in 2015.
In the past, students were required to bring paper documents to the university with stamps and signatures. Under the pilot, DUO uses a secure international connection to contact the Flemish government’s central repository directly to explain which students are receiving DUO funding and identify students’ course details.
De Boer explained that DUO wants to expand the scheme to include students from more countries.
“It will be interesting to see what numbers we come up with in other countries,” de Boer said.
DUO has started working with partners in the US and the UK, as well as the Emrex Network, which covers Scandinavian countries.
“We are expanding and … helping students so that they won’t have to go through the cumbersome process of filling out forms that get lost in the mail, or get misinterpreted by their US university which doesn’t understand what information we are looking for.”
The scheme is looking at EU students, as non-EU students must state that they will not apply for financial aid when requesting a visa – they must show that they will fund their studies.
“We are not worried [that students come and study, receive financial aid], it’s a great opportunity for our universities.”
In the future, the project may expand to identify German students who also ‘double dip’. There are many students from Germany in Groningen, where de Boer is based.
“It is all very new, so you have to take baby steps,” de Boer added.