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Court case could allow study grants to Europeans

If European Commission wins court case against the Netherlands, EU citizens living and studying in Denmark may ultimately get easier access to grants for studies outside of Denmark

A court ruling could ultimately make it easier for EU students living in Denmark to qualify for Danish study grant money for studies outside Denmark.

At present, foreign nationals are granted a Danish student grant (SU) and loan to study outside of Denmark, if they have lived and worked in Denmark for at least two years out of ten prior to starting a study abroad.

However, a current case against the Netherlands in the European Court of Justice may make this residence requirement illegal.

Rules may be discriminatory

The Netherlands has a similar residence requirement to Denmark. EU students must have lived in the Netherlands for three out of the previous six years to qualify for a grant to study elsewhere. In Denmark, students must have lived in the country for a straight two years out of 10.

But now the European Commission is taking the Netherlands to court, claiming that such residence rules are discriminatory against the rights of migrant workers or students under the EU free market for labour rules.

Denmark’s main interest in the case is to »curtail a potential increase in access to SU for education abroad, for outgoing Danish families and international students« according to a memo from The Danish students’ Grants and Loans Scheme to the Danish parliament.

Danish government supports Dutch regulations

The Danish government stand is that, when it comes to giving grants, the situation of overseas students in the Netherlands with little affiliation to the country should not be compared to students with permanent residency, the memo states.

And even if the rules are indirectly discriminatory, they are still »appropriate and necessary« as well as »proportional«, since other requirements based on language, or geographical limits would be more complicated and difficult to administrate, according to the memo.

Germany, Sweden and Belgium are expected to support the Danish and Dutch position on the issue.

Politicians must decide

Jørgen Winther, head of department at the Danish Education Support Agency SU-styrelsen, explains the Danish position: If the court upholds the EU Commission position and goes against the Netherlands, Danish politicians will have to face a decision on the Danish scheme.

Holland has a tougher restriction than Denmark, and a ruling against Holland will not automatically affect Denmark. But if politicians are forced to change the system, it could lead to more public expenses.

»It is a political judgement, whether or nor the Danish system can be upheld. But if there is an opening in the direction of allowing EU citizens being able to take their study grants abroad, it would mean more expenses for Denmark and Danish taxpayers,« he says.

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