Basic grant, tuition fees & student debt

With regards to the basic grant, let’s keep it short: everyone wants to keep it. Even the VVD party is in favour now.

SP advocates for increasing the basic grant, as do Volt, Partij voor de Dieren (Party for the Animals), D66 and GroenLinks-PvdA. They propose, for instance, making the temporary increase to compensate for inflation a permanent fixture, with GroenLinks-PvdA suggesting the basic grant increase annually in line with inflation.

For studies leading to professions in high demand, VVD proposes reducing tuition fees. They also want to make pursuing a second degree more affordable. D66 argues that everyone should be able to pursue a second degree at the statutory, low tuition fee. Volt goes further, proposing to completely abolish tuition fees for studies leading to crucial professions. And Partij voor de Dieren thinks all tuition fees should be lowered.

Volt advocates for an interest rate cap of 2.5 per cent on student loans. GroenLinks-PvdA also supports capping the interest rate. BBB and Partij voor de Dieren propose eliminating interest altogether. D66 and NSC aim to limit interest for unlucky students. CDA would offer discounts to those students who repay quickly and make it appealing for employers to assist in repayment.

SP and Partij voor de Dieren intend to ‘generously’ compensate students who fell under the loan system. Volt is pushing for compensation ‘averaging 10,000 euros per student’.

GroenLinks-PvdA wants student debts to have less impact on mortgage applications. Additionally, the party proposes that current students who fell under the loan system should be eligible for the basic grant, even if they have already studied for four years.

BBB believes student debt should not be considered at all in a mortgage application. According to CDA, only the current status of the student debt should be taken into account.

Housing shortage

VVD wants to repurpose vacant office buildings into student housing. Partij voor de Dieren also supports this and suggests using flexible housing.

GroenLinks-PvdA and D66 propose building more to address the housing shortage. According to D66, at least a quarter of student houses should have shared facilities. The liberals believe that educational institutions that want to grow should be responsible for the housing of the increased number of students coming to their city.

BBB wants to ease rules for room rental (without specifying how) and advocates for allowing housing allowances for student housing more frequently to make room rental and new student housing more attractive.

NSC proposes making it easier to split houses, creating more space for students or newcomers. The party also aims to counter abuse of the point system and encourages rental of rooms in someone’s home, similar to Volt.

Student wellbeing & binding study advice

GroenLinks-PvdA wants to abolish the binding study advice (as does Partij voor de Dieren) and considers reducing performance pressure a ‘top priority’. The left-wing coalition party also advocates for more funding for students facing delays due to a disability or board work. Additionally, a fund for first-generation students will be established to bridge class differences.

Performance pressure and well-being also receive significant attention in D66’s programme. The party wants to ease the binding study advice and invest in student counsellors and confidential counsellors. D66 also aims to eliminate the firm ‘Bachelor-before-Master’ rule. Moreover, the party would allocate funds for student organisations to work on the mental well-being of their members.

Volt is in favour of a ‘non-binding study advice’, allowing students themselves to decide whether to continue their programme at the end of their first year. CDA wants to retain the binding study advice in its current form.

Partij voor de Dieren also pays a lot of attention to student well-being and advocates, among other things, for an annual measurement of student wellbeing, better access to study advisors, student counsellors, confidential counsellors, psychologists and other support staff.

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Independence and transparency are paramount for SP, D66, GroenLinks-PvdA, NSC, Partij voor de Dieren and BBB. For instance, Partij voor de Dieren proposes a public register that lists the additional roles of all researchers, professors and lecturers, and advocates for an ethical committee to oversee cases where companies fund a professorship.

SP and GroenLinks-PvdA promise to fortify the position of scientists through more permanent appointments and safeguards for independent research. Both parties propose a research fund where companies can offer assignments, ensuring no direct connection between scientists and their clients. They also advocate for freely accessible scientific articles and open science.

VVD aims to translate knowledge into the economy and society, directing research funds more towards technical, medical and beta research. The party also wants to stimulate valorisation and entrepreneurship. Like GroenLinks-PvdA, Volt and D66, the party advocates for collaborating with companies to ensure that 3 per cent of GDP is invested in research and development. BBB and NSC also call for strengthened collaboration with companies in research investments.

Furthermore, NSC wants to improve direct funding and starter grants for young researchers. The party believes more research should focus on Dutch policy issues and finds it unacceptable that many professors engage in income tax matters while there is no chair dedicated to the benefits system.

D66 advocates substantial structural investments in science, allocating a portion directly to institutions. Open science should become the ‘new normal,’ and knowledge should not be hidden behind a paywall. GroenLinks-PvdA calls for more balance in science financing without explicitly stating what that entails.

Partij voor de Dieren proposes a phasing-out policy for animal testing and an immediate ban on animal testing in higher education.

International students & more Dutch

NSC observes an ‘uncontrolled influx’ of international students and labour migrants and proposes a target of 50,000 people per year for the migration balance. As such, the party has various plans to limit the number of international students: intake should be regionally linked to ‘available housing and educational positions’. Moreover, the party wants to make it more challenging for EU students to claim the basic grant, and thinks that tuition fees for non-EU students should significantly increase.

According to VVD, institutions should have the option to implement an intake restriction for international students. The liberals also want a minimum tuition fee for non-EER students and European agreements to more fairly distribute the costs of internationalisation.

SP and Partij voor de Dieren also want to limit the number of international students. BBB proposes that the availability of rooms in a city determines how many international students are welcome. CDA supports a student cap in case of housing problems, overcrowded lecture halls or exceedingly rapid growth.

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D66 has a similar plan. The party believes that educational institutions, together with municipalities, should determine the maximum number of international students based on available housing and facilities. What’s more, institutions should adjust their recruitment policies accordingly and help international students find housing at no charge. D66 also wants it to be easier for international students to work alongside their studies.

Almost all parties want to intervene in the language policy at universities and most of the time that means less English. According to VVD and NSC, Bachelor’s education should be in Dutch, though there should still be room for exceptions. CDA believes that programmes primarily targeting the Dutch job market should be in Dutch. PVV wants Bachelor’s education to be exclusively in Dutch, as well as a cap on the number of international students in Master’s programmes. NSC and VVD also believe that international students should learn Dutch.

SP doesn’t mention mandatory Dutch-language education but argues that every programme should be available in Dutch. Volt wants to assess the needs per institution, and GroenLinks-PvdA suggests better justification when choosing to provide English-language education.

D66 is the most positive about internationalisation and English-language education but wants to remove ‘financial incentives’ for offering programmes in English from funding.

According to the CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, mandatory Dutch-language bachelor education could cost up to 400 million euros due to a decrease in international students.

Also noteworthy:

Pay per credit

The VVD aims to make ‘flexible studying’ (where students can pay per credit) widely available, facilitating the combination of studies with work, elite sports or informal caregiving. CDA, Partij voor de Dieren and D66 also support this concept.

Knowledge security

VVD advocates for screening international researchers and collaborations, with an emphasis on increased transparency regarding research funding. Researchers with ‘allegiance to unfree regimes’ should be restricted from sensitive knowledge areas.

D66 intends to raise awareness among knowledge institutions about the risks of theft in collaborations with scientists, students and institutions from ‘countries seen as strategic opponents’.

Free public transportation for students

Partij voor de Dieren proposes making the student public transport pass entirely free, extending this benefit even to those who do not graduate. D66 plans to enhance the pass by adding a subscription to the OV-fiets public bicycle service.

Equal treatment

Students in vocational education are not always treated equally compared to higher education students, and GroenLinks-PvdA aims to rectify this. Their election programme argues, for example, that vocational students should always have equal access to introduction weeks and student associations.

D66 shares a similar goal: ‘equal opportunities for student housing, equal access to student benefits and equal access to sports and culture’. BBB seeks to eliminate the terms ‘highly educated and low-educated.’ Therefore, the party proposes renaming higher professional education (HBO) to theoretical vocational education.

More stable funding

Various parties also call for making university funding more stable. GroenLinks-PvdA and D66 want to make it less dependent on student numbers and diplomas, while VVD and NSC seek to make agreements in advance about the maximum number of students per institution. CDA calls for increased funding for societal tasks, and the BBB wants to ‘adjust the revenue model’. Partij voor de Dieren wants to decrease dependency on the second (indirect) and third flows of funding.

Refugee students

According to GroenLinks-PvdA and Volt, refugee students should not face higher tuition fees but should pay the same rate as students from the European Union.

Elected rector?

Several parties – GroenLinks-PvdA, VVD, D66, and the Party for the Animals – advocate for strengthening participation. The latter party wants administrators of institutions to be elected instead of appointed by the minister.

Selection and admission

D66 wants to put an end to the ‘proliferation of admission criteria and selection procedures’. Programmes should only select if there are more applicants than spots, and the selection method must be scientifically substantiated.

Unique study programs

D66 defends smaller programmes. It advocates ‘cherishing small and unique programmes’, such as special crafts or unique language and culture studies, and argues that institutions should make agreements to preserve such expertise.

Budget analysis

The budget analysis from the CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis earlier this month revealed that VVD and CDA aim for significant cuts in education and research (amounting to approximately one billion euros). In contrast, GroenLinks-PvdA, D66, and Volt propose substantial increases in spending on these areas.

For this article, the plans of the ten biggest political parties (in the latest polls) were analysed.