On Monday, Van Engelshoven presented her Strategic Agenda for Higher Education and Research (‘Long-term durability’), setting out the course for the next few years. It describes how she intends to damp down the intense competition for student numbers. As she explained in an interview with the HOP, it also means she can better protect vulnerable studies.
No extra money
The Minister is giving no more money to higher education and research. She will, however, give universities and colleges more base funding and less per-student funding. This is intended both to bring calm and to do more to support small, but important, studies.
Fewer students are applying to follow such programmes as Dutch Studies, and this is threatening their continued existence. If society wants to keep these programmes going, then in Van Engelshoven’s view they should be given enough base funding to make this possible.
This is equally important for higher vocational training. In demographically contracting regions especially there are fewer and fewer students, and vocational training programmes could therefore face difficulties. Van Engelshoven: “You can’t keep every single programme going, but I do see that the presence of higher vocational training fulfils a valuable function in the regions.”
“Things are tight”
In the longer term, extra money has to be found for higher education and research, agrees the Minister, because today’s budgets are stretched. “We know things are tight, but right now the money isn’t there.” She regards the structural funding provided by the current Cabinet as “a big step in the right direction, but in the long term, yes, it’s not enough.”
The Dutch Student Union agrees; it refused to accept the Agenda at its presentation. Its chair, Alex Tess Rutten: “Today, while the Minister celebrates, thousands of teachers and researchers are working extra hours because they don’t want to let their students down.” In her view, the Minister’s ‘nice plans’ are worthless without extra funding for higher education and research.