The system of study grants will be reviewed following the shock by hundreds of students asked to reimburse scholarships they had received but no longer had a right to, the Minister for Higher Education in the Brussels-Wallonia Federation, Valérie Glatigny (MR) confirmed on Tuesday.
“Yes, the system needs to be reviewed,” the minister admitted in response to queries from many parliamentarians on the issue. “The rules need to be clarified and better information needs to be given beforehand to the students,” she said.
To this end, a working group has been formed by the minister to study and formulate proposals for reviewing the criteria for providing students with financing. The group includes representatives of students, academic institutions, the FWB administration and the minister’s cabinet, Glatigny explained.
The minister blamed the difficulties experienced on reforms including the modification of the student evaluation system, the extension of the registration period to late October and the possibility of reorientation up to February. As a result of the lengthening of these timelines, students’ eligibility for financing could only be verified after the fact, long after they received their study grants.
A total of 843 students were asked to reimburse their stipends, totalling €989,822, for the 2017-2018 academic year, Glatigny said, with individual students owing between €409 and €4,966. Thus far the students concerned have paid back just under €75,000.
The minister explained that all students had been given the possibility of repaying their grants in instalments. “To this day there has been no repressive measure by the administration,” she said.
Following the debate on the measure in the commission on Tuesday, an opposition party (cdH) filed a motion calling for the criteria governing eligibility for financing to be examined more quickly in future and for the grant application procedure to be reviewed.
For its part, the opposition labour party (PTB) introduced another motion calling for the current reimbursements to be waived.
The motions will be put to the vote at a plenary session on Wednesday.
The PS-MR-Ecolo (socialst and green) majority in the region’s Parliament immediately filed a motion of order to reject the two texts.