The Senate had previously asked the government to reconsider the possibility of mitigating the rebate. The answer is ‘no’. The cuts will amount to 92 million euros in the coming year and will gradually increase to structurally 183 million from 2021 onwards.

Previous government

Van Engelshoven places the blame on the previous government and emphasises the fact that the current coalition is actually spending extra money on education. The gap was moreover much larger; the current government has managed to reduce that slightly.

The gap was partly a result of previous successful policies: the government wanted universities and universities of applied science to recruit foreign students, and that was a success. But now there are so many students that the costs are starting to mount up.

The cuts affect the entire education system, from primary schools to universities. Science also has to make a sacrifice.

Ultimatum

The protest movement WOinActie gave the Minister an ultimatum: on Prinsjesdag the cuts would have to be off the table. That is now not going to happen and neither will extra money be made available for education, as the campaigners had hoped.

Higher education can expect an injection of cash thanks to the new student loan system, in which the basic grant has been abolished: next year that will amount to 184 million euros. This money is intended to improve higher education.

Cuts ‘are going to be felt somewhere’

The ‘efficiency rebate’ works in the opposite direction. In a debate on the previous budget, Minister Van Engelshoven said that she would prefer to make cutbacks “by chopping down the forest of consultation” in education, but she understood that this would not be enough. She acknowledged that “cuts are going to be felt somewhere”.

The members of the Senate found this difficult to accept and were very critical, but they did not press the matter further. They did not want to force the government to change its course, and so the efficiency rebate will not be dropped.

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