Why would you have to pay for an entire academic year when – due to circumstances or voluntarily – you end up only attending a few subjects? Wouldn’t it be better in that event to pay per ECTS credit? That’s the basic idea behind the current experiment with ‘flexible studying’.

The higher education sector was rather lukewarm about the proposal. Only two universities of applied sciences and two research universities are taking part in the experiment: Windesheim, HU University of Applied Sciences, Tilburg University and the University of Amsterdam.


So far, Windesheim in particular is enthusiastic about het scheme: there are fewer dropouts among the participants than the remainder of the student body. That’s why the university of applied sciences would like to expand this experiment to include first-year students. According to the current rules, the arrangement is only open to senior students.

Coalition parties VVD and CDA think expanding the scheme could work and have tabled a motion to this end. They have asked the Cabinet to open ‘flexible studying’ to first-year students in the next round of the experiment. And they’ve found an ally in Education Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven, who told the parliament on Tuesday that she also likes the idea.

A bit more

When you pay as you go, you will have to pay a bit more though. The educational institutions are allowed to increase the rate by 15% for credit-based payments – for administrative expenses. CDA would like this percentage to be set as a maximum rather than a standard surcharge.

And once again, it’s fine with the Minister: “What you’re basically saying is ‘if they can do it for less, can they make sure it costs less?’” Van Engelshoven will be making the necessary changes in the experiment’s terms and conditions.


The plan for this experiment was first hatched in 2015, by then coalition partners VVD and PvdA. While it enjoyed the support of the Dutch Student Union (LSVb), opposition parties initially scoffed at the plan – calling it a ‘supermarket model’ and ‘Chinese takeaway’. They were afraid that students would limit their scope to popular subjects. Most parliamentary parties have since revised their position, however.

During a recent debate about increasing the flexibility of the education sector, almost none of the participants dug their heels in. The most critical note came from GroenLinks, which warned that these charming schemes could lead to budget cuts via the backdoor and further fragmentation. Flexible education could create all sorts of new complications: how can we safeguard a programme’s quality and cohesion, for example?