Dutch students throw eggs, bottles at police

21st January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Dutch university students threw eggs and bottles at police as they took to the streets of The Hague in their thousands on Friday to protest against cuts in the education budget, police said.

"Riot and mounted police had to take action to restore order," police spokesman Wim Hoonhout told AFP, saying dozens of students who loitered in groups after an organised picket, had clashed with police.

"They threw eggs, bottles and firecrackers," he said, adding there were no injuries in the unrest that lasted for about two hours.

Some demonstrators had also dropped a smoke bomb.

Twenty-five arrests were made for vandalism, public violence and maltreatment of bystanders, said a police statement.

The students were voicing their anger with government budget cuts.

Police said 15,000 people, including students and lecturers, took part in the protest in a public park near the city centre, but organisers put the number at more than 20,000.

In a bid to cut spending and reverse a growing public deficit, the government has said it wants to save 370 million euros ($501 million) every year from 2012 by making slow learners contribute 3,000 euros for every year of prolonged study.

Tuition fees normally amount to 1,700 euros per year.

The higher fee would apply to students who require more than four years to finish a three-year bachelor's degree and more than two years for a one-year Masters degree, education department spokesman Job Slok told AFP.

In addition, institutions would lose out on 6,000 euros in government grants every year for each such student.

"We will invest this money back in education, to make it better," said Slok.

"Who is rich may be educated," read a poster at the protest gathering, with picketers complaining that the government made no exception for students who studied longer due to health problems or other, unexpected commitments.

According to Guy Hendricks, chairman of the ISO student association, about 70,000 students would be affected by the measure. "That is more than 10 percent of the student population," he added.

The Association of Universities of the Netherlands has said it expected the budget cuts to cost the jobs of 2,500 university professors and lecturers next year.

But Slok told AFP that universities "are independent in their spending decisions" and it was both "unnecessary and unwise" to dismiss any lecturers.

© 2011 AFP

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