Less than two years ago, in July 2022, universities signed an administrative agreement with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. “All of us signed it”, says spokesperson Ruben Puylaert of the UNL association of universities.

Universities were supposed to get 200 million euros a year, subject to all kinds of obligations. They agreed with the Minister on national cooperation, social safety, knowledge utilisation and much more.

Moreover, they had to provide permanent jobs: the money involved 1,200 appointments. “The universities have put in considerable efforts to that end”, Puylaert says. “We honour our commitments.”

Agreement

However, the new government wants to take this money away. This is one of the cuts to knowledge, higher education and research, alongside the cuts to the National Growth Fund, the increased statutory tuition fee for long-term students (langstudeerboete) and the VAT charge on books.

The difference with these other cuts is that an agreement is in place. This creates obligations, according to the universities. The government must act reliably and carefully. You cannot suddenly take away the money two years after concluding such an agreement.

Coalition

Coalition parties PVV, VVD, NSC and BBB apparently believe otherwise. They have made agreements with each other and do not seem to have any intention of reversing them.

Prospective Minister of Education, Culture and Science Eppo Bruins also fails to see any problems for the time being, even if young scholars may have to be fired again. He told the House of Representatives that there is simply a limit to the number of young people who can progress within a university.

The universities’ exact arguments are not yet known, nor is the response of the incoming government. It therefore remains to be seen whether this will ultimately result in a lawsuit.

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