When the basic student grant was abolished in 2015, institutions were allowed to use the proceeds of the new system to improve their teaching. This was under the condition that their ‘quality plans’ were approved by accreditation body NVAO and that the participation councils and supervisory boards would have a say in them.

Now that the basic student grant has been reinstated as of last year, Minister Dijkgraaf wants to simply hand over the freed-up funds to the institutions. In 2024, this will amount to €419 million for universities of applied sciences and €244 million for research universities.

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Checks and balances

As far as the Minister is concerned, there’s no need for the NVAO to check how this money is spent after 2024. He is confident that “even after the current quality agreements expire, institutions will remain committed to improving the quality of their education”. The participation councils will also continue to be involved in the decision-making process to ensure that funds are allocated appropriately.

A number of parties are uneasy about this, given the fact that many institutions failed to meet previous agreements. The VVD wants to know what ‘fallback options’ the government has should it turn out that institutions are spending the millions elsewhere. According to Minister Dijkgraaf, there are still plenty of checks and balances. For example, the NVAO can revoke the accreditation of underperforming programmes.

But the organisation won’t be able to do this if programme inspections disappear, warns NSC, which is against allowing institutions to inspect their own educational offerings. The party led by Pieter Omtzigt would rather see spot checks on top of the current programme inspections.

Spot checks

Minister Dijkgraaf considers such spot checks “disproportionate” and believes that this kind of “supervision stacking” would lead to an excessive regulatory burden. Only if a subsequent cabinet decides to make the institutions themselves responsible for accreditation could spot checks be used – if there are signs that a programme is failing.

Nor is the Minister worried that the participation councils will not be sufficiently involved in how the money is spent. The institutions and student organisations have agreed that decision-making on this funding falls under the ‘broad budget outline’, which must be approved by the participation councils. In case of disagreement, the participation councils can appeal to the national disputes committee.


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Financial compensation

GroenLinks-PvdA has reminded Minister Dijkgraaf that there’s still no agreement on financial compensation for students who serve on their institution’s participation council, and that this is detrimental to the quality of supervision. The Minister dismissed this assertion, but he does expect the institutions and student organisations to reach an agreement before the summer.

The current funding conditions could be abolished by 2025 if the bill passes the House of Representatives and the Senate before the summer.