Many vocational students still excluded from student life
Although MBO students have officially been recognized as "students" under the law for the past two years, they are still not able to equally participate in all aspects of student life. Student discounts and other memberships are often withheld from them, Trouw reports.
Introduction weeks, gym discounts and student housing are some of the spots where vocational students are often excluded from student benefits, interest group JOBmbo told Trouw. "It sometimes feels crooked that there is now a lot of attention for the valuation of MBO, but that they are still excluded on the above points," a spokesperson said.
This is in part due to the funding of MBO institutions. “Our funding is much more focused on education itself, without room for extra activities,” said Joost Heeroma, who is spokesperson on behalf of the Utrecht MBO institutions.
But this can also make a dent in MBO students' wallets: for example, prices at student sports clubs can be two to three times more expensive without a student discount. In other cases, it is not clear to the discount provider at first glance whether or not MBO students are eligible. The interest group told Trouw that conditions for some deals still need to be updated on the discount providers' websites, since vocational students have only had "student" status since 2020.
However, the tide seems to be turning somewhat. This year in Utrecht, student introduction week is also open to MBO students for the first time. MBO institutions also are testing a pilot program to allow vocation students to receive discounts at student sports clubs in the city, according to Trouw. MBO students will get special cards to spend on art and culture activities this fall as well.
Vocational students are important to the Dutch labor market, where the number of job vacancies is outpacing the amount of people who can fill them. Declining numbers of MBO students could hinder the Cabinet's plans for childcare, healthcare and the energy transition, according to the MBO Raad.
Heeroma said it is important that the government makes money available in the long term for MBO students to get the full student experience. "If you think it's important that MBO students can fully participate, you should also make money for that,” he said.