Finance minister Wopke Hoekstra (Christian Democrats) answered all questions put by members of the House of Representatives during its debate on next year’s budget. As part of the debate, he addressed the cut in higher education.

The government had been planning to raise the interest payable on student loans but has since decided against this move. As a result, public finances will miss out on €226 million in the longer term. Under the current budget, the higher education sector will be expected to make up this shortfall. The Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) demanded an explanation.

Playing politics

Hoekstra brushed off the criticism. He pointed out that the cut would not make itself felt under the current government. The costs will only start rising gradually from 2025, by which time there will be another government in office.

The finance minister maintained that the cuts had ‘technically already been entered’ and charged to education, but that it would be a while before they were implemented. “If parties wish to make changes when a new government is being formed, they will be free to do so.” In other words, the policy can always be adjusted following the next general election.

Hoekstra implied that he thought the PvdA was playing politics. “Here, too, the question seems to suggest that higher education will be presented with a bill during the current term of office. That is simply untrue.”

Tabled motion

Nevertheless, the cuts still feature in the budget. Together with the Socialist Party (SP), the PvdA tabled a motion to find an alternative solution. The finance minister advised against the motion and it failed to gain a majority in a vote on Tuesday afternoon.