Before the Christmas break, a majority of the House of Representatives’ education committee wanted to declare a proposal by Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf as ‘controversial’. Its consideration would then be put on hold until a new government is in place.

This could have significant consequences, warned Minister Dijkgraaf last week. Research universities, universities of applied sciences and students were also concerned. The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the matter this Tuesday.

In a nutshell, the situation is as follows. With the abolition of the basic student grant in 2015, additional funds were allocated for higher education – approximately 625 million euros annually. Research universities and universities of applied sciences were supposed to use this money to improve the quality of their education in consultation with the student representation and the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO). However, the basic student grant is back, and Dijkgraaf wants to give that money directly to the institutions again.

This requires a legislative change, which needs approval from both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Additionally, he included something else in the proposal: the compensation for students of the ‘unlucky generation’ will be increased with inflation so that the compensation retains its value if, for example, they will only be graduate in a few years’ time. This would account for an additional 100 million euros.


It looked like none of this would actually come to be. The VVD, in favour of stricter financial requirements for research universities and universities of applied sciences, did not want to eliminate quality funding yet and had a majority in the education committee.

Since then, however, the situation has changed. Jan Paternotte (D66), on behalf of a majority (with SP, GroenLinks-PvdA, DENK, Volt, PvdD, SGP, ChristenUnie, CDA, NSC and JA21), proposed not to vote yet and to discuss this declaration of controversy first in the education committee.

In his letter, Dijkgraaf outlined the need for urgency. He wants to add the money to the direct funding of research universities and universities of applied sciences, which is particularly important for institutions in shrinking regions. If this does not happen quickly enough, a legal process of quality plans and assessments would need to be initiated again before the institutions can receive the money. Students of the unlucky generation would also receive less money in that case.

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