Excluding people wishing to attend a tertiary institution in Brussels from a new allowance for students with long commutes “exposes the very great dangers of the regionalisation of community matters,” Brussels Free University (ULB) Chancellor Yvon Englert said on Monday in Le Soir daily. Also weighing in on the issue was Rudy Demotte, Prime Minister of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, who said the measure was an attack on the freedom to choose one’s university.
Wallonia’s Government decided recently to grant an annual allowance of 1,000 euros to students in rental accommodation who spend over an hour commuting to their universities or graduate schools.
Only students from Wallonia studying in Wallonia would be eligible for the allowance, which drew heated reactions from student federations last week.
“By excluding from the measure (which is, moreover, not necessary) students who would like to attend a higher-education institution in the Brussels Region, thereby breaking the unicity of French-language higher education, the decision highlights the very big dangers of regionalising community matters if one is not careful,” Englert said. “If this is a provocation within the framework of the debate on the regionalisation of education, it’s playing dangerously with fire.”
For his part, Demotte argued that “if the assistance is only granted for establishments located in Wallonia, that’s a step backward for students’ freedom to choose their university”. He expressed regret that there had been an absence of consultation on the issue.
Wallonia’s Housing Minister, Valérie De Bue (Reformist Movement) said she was not opposed to extending the measure to Brussels residents. She indicated, however, that this would mean it has little chance of being implemented come September, since that would require a cooperation agreement between Wallonia and Brussels.