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Institutions must provide clarity on ‘preinvestments’

Ingrid van Engelshoven, Minister of Education, trusts that, even at this late date, institutions will share with their co-determination bodies reports by the Netherlands Court of Audit about their 'preinvestments'. If they fail to do so, discussions on the quality agreements made be thwarted. At TU/e, having appealed to the Executive Board, the University Council was sent the report.

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The Lower House is still considering options for compensating ‘bad luck' students who between 2015 and 2017 failed to benefit from improved education while no longer receiving the basic grant.

Thanks to the millions that have become available since the basic grant was abolished, the universities of applied sciences and universities have been able since 2018 to invest more in their education. In anticipation of this, they promised to get the process started between 2015 and 2017 using their own capital. The Netherlands Court of Audit, which carried out a study of these ‘preinvestments’, concluded however that many institutions have not honored this promise.


Governing coalition party CDA urged the cabinet this last spring to compensate those students who fell victim to this, even at this late stage. But Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven made it clear that a national scheme would not be introduced. Students who believed they had been shortchanged would simply have to arrange any compensation they might be entitled to with the board of their institution – but through the co-determination body.

The confidential reports produced by the Court of Audit on the preinvestments of each institution may prove useful in achieving this, the minister emphasized again when answering new parliamentary questions. With the universities of applied sciences and universities, she has agreed that their executive boards will share these reports with their co-determination bodies. How many institutions have now done so, she does not know. They are not legally obliged to do so, but the minister trusts that this will be done during the forthcoming discussions of how the millions available under the loan system will be used as of 2019.

Erik van Heijst, until the end of 2018 faction leader of student representatives Groep-één, says that the Eindhoven University Council received the report by the Netherlands Court of Audit, but only after "some persistent urging of the Executive Board". Van Heijst says, "We were able to read in the report that the Court of Audit had concluded at 27 percent of the preinvestments did meet the relevant criteria, 22 percent did not and for 51 percent the Court of Audit could not establish whether or not they did." In September 2018 Van Heijst let it be known at the University Council meeting that the council was satisfied with the extent to which it was involved in drafting the plans and it agreed to them on the condition that the Joint Program Committee would also be asked for its advice. This condition has since been fulfilled. Van Heijst says he is satisfied with the plans agreed to by the council.

In the unlikely event of an institution failing to honor the agreement, of if discussions about the reports prove unsatisfactory, the co-determination body can “make an issue of it” says Van Engelshoven. These councils can “in extreme cases state that they do not approve the budget,” says the minister, and thus block the new quality agreements. To keep up the pressure, in the coming spring, the minister will “inform the Lower House how the discussions about the institutional reports went”.

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