It only takes a single misstep in education to raise questions asking why the government hasn’t taken steps to closely monitor how education funds are spent. What are all those millions of taxpayer’s money actually being spent on?
That is why the Education Council examined the financing of education, from primary school to university. To put it concisely, the recommendations come down to this: politics must keep its hands off the funds. Setting clear requirements is acceptable, and educational institutions have to better account for how the funding was spent. And that’s it.
The recommendations also state that funding of education should be simplified and caution should be used when it comes to subsidies, performance agreements and other types of target funding.
Temporary financing doesn’t work, said chair Henriëtte Maassen van den Brink and council member Pieter Huisman in an interview held today with HOP (the Higher Education press office). They feel the extra funding received by universities if they appoint more female professors is a good example, “because you lose sight of what comes in at the front-end and there are no clear agreements about accountability at the back-end. Is it evidence-based that the funding for female professors was well-spent? Once the funding dries up, the impetus you wanted to give disappears as well.”
One approach that may work is to have institutions compare their spending with each other, so that it raises questions if they deviate significantly from the average. Participation councils also need to be better enabled to assess the financial expenditures of their institutions. As far as the Education Council is concerned, the Inspectorate of Education will supervise this closely, but it feels that national norms regarding the remuneration of participation council members are not needed.
However, a body should be established to assist participation council members to understand the finances of their educational institution and even carry out a full financial investigation, by analogy with the local audit offices.
The Education Council believes it can’t be done without external supervision. The Inspectorate of Education and the assessor of quality in education NVAO (Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders) should be better equipped and receive more support.