Two years ago, the Covid pandemic arrived, accompanied by lockdown. Higher education quickly moved online. The pandemic was ‘as unexpected as it was dramatic’.

NVAO president Sander van den Eijnden and inspector-general Alida Oppers, who monitor the quality of education for the government, write this in their report. At the request of the previous cabinet, they review the quality of education during the pandemic.


Their impression of that quality is ‘mixed’, according to their report. “For a large group of students, online education cannot emulate mainstream education provided before the pandemic,’ says the report. ‘We cannot exclude the possibility that students will be disadvantaged in their social and personal development as a result of online education. The learning experience was also reduced, due to the lack of practical assignments, for example.”

“It is important that all students are given the opportunity to make up the missed learning experiences and that action is taken to promote student welfare”, they add. The government should contribute to that.

But another conclusion is that the study programmes did not fail. They retained their level. ‘We see that the quality assurance cycle continued to operate,’ say the two presidents. Furthermore, study delays were limited for most students.

In short, the study programmes did what they could and kept education going. But you would obviously wish students a better experience in which they learned a wide range of things which you cannot cover in quality judgements by the Inspectorate and NVAO.


Minister Dijkgraaf sent the report to the House of Representatives with a letter. He has admiration for ‘the resilience and responsiveness of higher education’, he writes. But the pandemic was obviously not without consequences for higher education.

“I therefore call on universities and universities of applied science to enable students to make up missed learning experiences, to monitor the progress of students, offer targeted advice and support and to devote special attention to the group of first and second-year students who have missed so much”, he writes.

“Investing in the welfare of students and staff and in the social connection with the education programme continues to be essential”, he feels. The institutions can use the money from the National Education Programme (NPO) for this purpose.

To limit the damage of the pandemic in education, the universities of applied science are receiving 284 million euros and the universities 83.6 million euros from the NPO. 162 million euros are available for the delay to researchers.

Preferably in person

In response to this report, student organisation ISO again warns about problems with online education. It is a ‘great achievement’ that education was able to continue remotely, says president Lisanne de Roos, ‘but students suffered depression, their motivation declined, and they were less satisfied with their study programme’.

In her opinion, education from a screen can never match a lecture hall in which students come together. De Roos: “We therefore continue to support the principle that education is given in person. Online education is a good supplement to in-person education but must never be a total replacement.”