In his response, Pieter Duisenberg, Chair of the university umbrella organisation VSNU, wholeheartedly subscribes to the Van Rijn Committee’s recommendation to move from a ‘distribution model’ to a ‘true funding model’ that takes account of institutions’ actual requirements when it comes to maintaining quality. Which makes the proposed combination of increased funding for science and engineering and painful cuts for the humanities, social sciences and medical sciences all the more of a ‘false start’, as Duisenberg puts it. These disciplines “are of considerable importance to society, and are already burdened by high pressure of work and other sticking points.”

The Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences (VH) is also critical of the proposed redistribution of funds within the existing budget. “We are aware of the problem of students who switch institutions without these costs being covered. Indeed, we need more money to address this issue,” says VH Chair Maurice Limmen. “However, we don’t think taking these funds from other institutions and their students is the solution.”

Moreover, the universities of applied sciences are concerned about the Committee’s proposal to erect extra barriers before an institution can launch a new study programme. “This could negatively affect the desired expansion of association degree and master programmes in higher professional education.”

Matter of record

The Dutch Student Union (LSVb) is pleased that at any rate, thanks to Van Rijn, “it is finally a matter of record that the national contribution per student has decreased.” LSVb Chair Carline van Breugel: “There’s such a lack of transparency in the current system that even the Minister is unable to say how things really stand. This is a very dangerous situation. The system has become unmanageable and destructive – it’s putting serious pressure on both the students and quality standards.” She hopes that the government will quickly commission a study to determine whether the higher education sector receives enough money to safeguard quality.

WOinActie is pleased that Van Rijn has acknowledged that the pressure of work at the universities is too high and advises the transition from a distribution model to a true funding model. “But this makes it all the more disappointing that the proposals are only concerned with redistribution.” Introducing budget cuts in the humanities, social sciences and medicine to resolve capacity issues in science and engineering programmes will only make matters worse. The cuts would be unacceptable. “As we had advised, the Committee should have recognised that it had been handed an impossible brief.”

In addition, the protest group is curious to see where the money transferred from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) to the direct funding stream will end up. They want scientists to also have a voice in the associated debate.