Drastic cutbacks are included in the agreement of the four future coalition parties. In total, they amount to almost a billion euros per year. To put this into perspective, in 2022 the revenue of the University of Amsterdam was approximately equal to this amount.

“Cutbacks of this magnitude are essentially the same as closing down one large university, or two or three smaller universities”, says Rens Bod of WOinActie.

This platform has spent years calling for an increase to the research budget of a billion euros per year. When the previous cabinet took office, it looked like these efforts had been successful. Bod: “We thought we’d won.”

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Now he’s announcing new actions, in collaboration with the trade unions. They want to show the consequences of the cutbacks and the importance of education and research. “Research into vaccinations, the shortage of teachers and of judges… to name but a few things that these parties also value.”

He could give many more examples, but what’s the point? “The radical right has a problematic relationship with education and research”, says Bod. “It almost makes you wonder: are they against new knowledge? We’re preparing for an aversion to knowledge institutes.”

Geert Wilders recently spoke at a political conference in Hungary, a country where the freedom of researchers and journalists is under pressure. Is Bod afraid that the Netherlands is heading down the same path as Hungary? “Of course we are”, he says. “The signs aren’t positive. We may end up in a situation where independent journalists and scientists are directly attacked.”

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He sounds more pessimistic (and more combative) than the president of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), Marileen Dogterom. She’s not afraid of going the way of Hungary. In an interview with HOP, she said: “It’s really going too far to say that the entire coalition is directly opposed to science.”

“But VVD and NSC have agreed to collaborate with a party that definitely shows this tendency”, responds Bod. “You can compromise all you want, but things aren’t heading in the right direction. All said and done, we’re afraid scientists will receive less protection than they already have.”

He suspects things will head in the direction of Italy. He draws attention to an opinion piece by Frans Timmermans, party leader of GroenLinks-PvdA, who describes how the far right in Italy is hollowing out the freedom of journalists, writers and researchers.

Bod: “This may lead to such things as a researcher saying the government is far-right and the government responding by taking that researcher to court. Particularly the social sciences and humanities are at risk. It can happen here as well.” Wilders recently pressed charges against Frans Timmermans.


So WOinActie is planning to take action. The platform’s strategy will partially depend on the future minister. Bod: “Once we have a name, this will help us to focus. A lot depends on who it will be. I’m not going to express hope yet, but things may turn out a bit differently if a minister from VVD or NSC is appointed.”

In any case, WOinActie wants to be present at the opening of the new academic year in the city that will also welcome the minister. A knowledge festival, where researchers demonstrate everything they have to offer, is also in the works. Perhaps there will be more drastic actions, such as ‘work-to-rule strikes’ (refusing to work overtime) or teaching-free days.

But Bod is frustrated this is necessary. “Thanks to our actions in the past years, there finally was a bit of relief that was to help guarantee quality. That’s now at risk once again.”

The intended cutbacks on the national ‘sector plans’ and a fund for research amount to a total of 365 million euros per year. Fewer foreign students: 293 million euros. The slow-progress penalty for students who are taking too long to complete their studies and cutbacks on the allowance for the public transport card of students abroad are to bring in 312 million euros per year.