That is what it says in the new coalition agreement ‘Looking out for each other; looking forward to the future’, which has just been presented following the longest formation process in the history of Dutch politics.

Student grant

“We want everyone to be able to study, regardless of their parents’ income”, write the four parties VVD, D66, CDA and ChristenUnie. “We are focusing on workability and enforceability.”

The basic student grant will return in September 2023; that had already been leaked. A supplementary grant will also remain available. Students also retain their student travel card (OV).

Moreover, the lending conditions remain unchanged. Students are therefore allowed 35 years to repay their loans. Under the old study finance scheme (up to September 2015), this was fifteen years, with higher monthly amounts.

The investments in higher education, for which the basic student grant had to be cut, will remain. In addition, one billion euros has been set aside to compensate students who missed out on the basic student grant.

Part of that allowance (250 million euros) will be cut from the National Education Programme in 2023 that is intended to eliminate cognitive and social-emotional disadvantages in education.

One billion euros is not a large sum for that compensation, compared with the scenarios that the Department for Education, Culture and Science officials had listed (between 1.4 and 11 billion euros). Students without a basic student grant will soon be able to choose between a discount on their student loans or a voucher for extra tuition. Precise amounts per student have not yet been designated.


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Over the next ten years, the cabinet intends to invest 10 billion euros in science, i.e. 500 million euros a year. That is less than the billion the universities asked for and less than the 600 million euros that they need, according to PwC consultants. The money will be put into a special fund and is intended for “free and unbound research and development”.

The cabinet also wants to offer universities and colleges a greater chance ‘to tackle the workload, offer permanent contracts and maintain a balanced supply in shrinking regions’.

Higher education funding will therefore be amended as the cabinet wants to remove the “perverse incentive” to recruit as many students as possible. The funding per student will therefore be reduced. Instead, the government is going to ‘revise and increase’ the fixed budget. This is the amount that educational institutions receive anyway, regardless of student numbers.

Furthermore, there will be a ‘better balance’ between direct and indirect funding, i.e. the funding that goes directly to the educational institutions and the Dutch Research Council (NWO) research grants that educational institutions can compete for.

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A draft bill regarding the internationalisation of higher education is pending before the Upper House. This bill should put a halt to the anglicisation of higher education. Moreover, educational institutions will be given the opportunity of better managing the flow of international students.

In their agreement, the parties write, “If the existing instruments and those yet to be introduced prove inadequate in managing shocks in the international and domestic student numbers, then we shall look into whether new instruments are needed.”

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Small-scale study programmes

The four parties write, “When it comes to small-scale study programmes, Dutch language and culture, universities will need to work together to guarantee a comprehensive and suitable range of courses going forward”. Small-scale study programmes may therefore not simply be scrapped.

Moreover, bachelor students should always be able to apply to do their master’s degree at their current university: “We will make sure every bachelor student can go on to do a master’s degree at the same institution while retaining space for profiling.” This profiling is likely to mean universities will be allowed to place their own accents on their courses.

Selection and BSA

Another difficult issue is at-the-gate selection. A large section of the Lower House is struggling with this, whereas another section wants even more selection. The compromise: those running study programmes will have to explain their choices better. The agreement states that “study programmes that select students must justify how their selection procedure corresponds to the course content, how it is effective and how it safeguards equal opportunities”.

The binding study advice is to become more lenient. The new agreement states that “Students who fail to achieve their BSA standard in the first year will be given the chance to reach the points standard in the second year”.

However, there are exceptions: in the case of ‘clearly unsatisfactory student progress’, the institution will retain the right to expel students at the end of the first year. The student will then have to be helped find a “more appropriate” study programme. The parties believe that “the amended BSA will allow us to help improve student welfare”.

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Freedom and equal opportunities

“We will encourage the free and safe exchange of ideas and safeguard the academic freedom of scientists,” the agreement states. ‘Open science’ and ‘open education’ will become the norm.

At least, as long as national security is not compromised. Furthermore, the new cabinet will establish ‘frameworks’ for scientific collaboration with undemocratic countries, which has recently been the subject of much discussion.

The cabinet also intends to remain wary about ideas that threaten freedom in this country. “We will stop funding should evidence emerge that an institution is engaged in anti-establishment practices”, the agreement states. This might refer to the Islamic University of Applied Sciences Rotterdam, against which the VVD in particular would like to see stricter action taken.

In addition, the cabinet writes, “We will promote the equal treatment of students in secondary vocational (mbo), higher professional (hbo) and academic (wo) education.” It is not entirely clear what the cabinet is aiming at, but perhaps it is referring to internship allowances and discrimination in the labour market.

Teacher training

In the battle against teacher shortages, the agreement states that the cabinet is committed to ‘strengthening the quality of teacher training courses, with a focus on effective subject teaching, specialisation in the young or older child, digital skills and appropriate education’.

The parties are also keen to interest more academics in education. “We will increase the academic intake.” It also says: “We will support new teachers and improve the study programme for lateral entrants while making it more flexible.” Further training is said to be a ‘priority’.


The agreement also addresses the housing shortage among students. “Given the acute shortage of housing for students, people urgently seeking accommodation, migrant workers and the homeless, the aim is to build 15,000 temporary homes each year and create another 15,000 by converting offices.”

The cabinet aims to remove all kinds of obstacles to the construction and purchase of homes. “First-time buyers are seeing the current level of student debt as a decisive factor when applying for a mortgage”. That is to say, not the original student loan but the money still owed. It remains to be seen what this will achieve because it will not change the monthly repayment to DUO.

Moreover, there will be a ‘duty to notify, a duty to register or a rent permit requirement, especially for the larger landlords’. The parties claim that this will enable local authorities to tackle discrimination and rogue landlords in a more targeted way.


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