However, politicians do seem to have received the message conveyed by protesters and lobbyists. The higher education sector is attracting more and more students, and as the Cabinet admitted in its National Budget Memorandum, this is causing ‘heavy workloads’. The quality of and access to education are suffering.
Meanwhile, what about academic research? That, too, deserves support. “We will need high-quality research and innovation to solve social issues and create more earning capacity in the future”, says the Budget Memorandum.
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However, no additional funding is forthcoming just yet. Clearly, the Cabinet believes that the more than €8 billion awarded for the period leading up to year-end 2023 for coronavirus support packages allocated as part of the National Education programme and the €20 billion to be awarded in the next five years as part of the National Growth Fund will suffice.
Students and politically engaged young people saw this lack of good news in the budget coming. They were out protesting near the Lower House yesterday morning. They want student grants to be reintroduced as soon as possible.
“The Cabinet says it wants equality of opportunity in the education sector, but nice, big words won’t suffice to make that happen”, says Ama Boahene of the National Student Union (LSVb). “We don’t understand why, yet again, no funding is being awarded to the abolition of student loans and to long-term investments in education.”
Lisanne de Roos of the Intercity Students’ Organisation (ISO) agrees that the lack of capital expenditures is ‘startling’. “We are being overlooked.” She calls the funding awarded to the National Education Programme a purely symbolic gesture.
The Algemene Onderwijsbond teachers’ union condemned the Budget Memorandum even more strongly, calling it ‘a huge disgrace’. AOb Chairwoman Tamar van Gelder pointed out that additional funding was awarded to things such as security and the housing market. If there is enough money for that, why isn’t there enough to award more funding to the education sector? She said the union would stage protest actions if the incoming government does not allocate more funding.
The Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences decided not to wait for the release of the National Budget Memorandum and sent a press release about the slow coalition negotiations the day before yesterday, stating that the delay in the formation of the new government is resulting in problematic issues at universities of applied sciences and is also negatively affecting the labour market. The Association wants more money for retraining and refresher courses and also feels that the incoming Cabinet must award an additional €240 million for applied research annually.
For their part, the Dutch universities have not yet responded to the Memorandum, but in recent months they have stated many times that they wish to receive an additional €1.1 billion annually. Outgoing Minister for Education Ingrid van Engelshoven said a while ago that she would leave the decisions on these capital expenditures to the incoming Cabinet.
The Cabinet itself refuses to accept the criticism that it is not spending enough. “I think the amount we, an outgoing Cabinet, are spending is quite unprecedented”, outgoing Minister of Finance Wopke Hoekstra told NOS yesterday afternoon.