Florence Schaatsbergen (21, Erasmus University College) is one of the student members of the University Council. Spearheads that are particularly important to her personally are sustainability and improving the provided education. The extra money, totalling some EUR 15 million per year, could play an important part. Five questions for Florence Schaatsbergen regarding the new quality agreements.

Huh? It has been three years since the base grant was abolished. Why are we only now seeing this money?

“The government needed a few years to draw up its plans – a process that has only just been rounded off. In anticipation, Erasmus University had already started making ‘pre-investments’ in its education offer. The difference being that those investments were paid out of the university’s own pocket. For the new plans – i.e. the ‘quality agreements’ – the state will be footing the bill, provided the investments conform to the six pillars established by the government.”

Which pillars are those?

“They concern more intensive and smaller-scale degree programmes; differentiation in teaching methods and talent development; professionalisation of lecturers; suitable, quality education facilities; increased and more effective support for students; and finally, better academic results (including follow-on programmes), accessibility and equal opportunity.”

Which role does the University Council play when it comes to quality agreements?

“University-wide, there’s the development of the Community for Learning and Innovation [to be opened this November, ES]. We focus most of our attention on this project. We aren’t directly involved in plans at the faculty level; that’s up to the faculty councils. We do work to keep the faculty councils up to date on everything that’s possible and facilitate the planning process. Our impression is that some of them don’t realise how much money is heading their way. On top of this, some faculties are cautious when it comes to appointing extra staff: they’re afraid of losing this budget later on – if the university gets poor marks from the assessment committee, for example. At which point the government cuts off funding. But the university has already promised that the faculties will receive the money at any rate, regardless of the outcome of the quality assessment.”

Can you also apply for this funding as a student with a good idea on how to improve education?

“We really hope that students will think along on how to improve education. The money’s becoming available now, so it’s the perfect time to pitch your ideas. Your best move is to get in touch with the programme committee of your study programme, or your study adviser. If they’re not interested, you can email your dean – he or she can always help you along.”

What do you personally hope will be improving as a result of this extra money?

“I hope the lectures will improve in terms of quality and that they will become more appealing. I hope tutors will get a better idea of which resources they can use for their lectures – video, for instance. I’d also like to see the university contributing to students’ development as human beings – not just help them earn a degree. Deal with subjects like refugees, handling the media, sustainability, but also something like loneliness.”