Better funding for higher education? Let’s hear it

The cabinet wants to reform the way higher education is funded, but how? A committee that assists minister Ingrid van Engelshoven in the matter would like to know what people think.

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The advisory committee, led by former state secretary Martin van Rijn, has been searching for an alternative to the current funding system since October. The committee was set up at the request of minister Van Engelshoven, who admitted that the task lying ahead is not an easy one. She ruled out the simplest solution from the start: the budget may be distributed differently, but it will not increase.

Stumbling blocks

One of the major stumbling blocks the committee has to overcome, is the financing of expensive beta science and technology programs that cannot cope with the large influx of students. As a result, they have resorted to limiting their student intake, despite labor shortages. Should they get a larger piece of the pie, as the cabinet wants, even at the expense of other fields?

Chairman of the TU/e Executive Board Jan Mengelers has stated earlier that in the future, extra growth is possible only if the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science adds 50 million euros annually to the 200 million TU/e already receives. Without these extra means, Mengelers believes, it is impossible to guarantee the quality of education, because this requires more academic staff. With businesses courting all available talent, the chairman says, this is a big enough challenge already.

Four years

But there are more problems. For instance, government funding for a typical student only lasts for a period of four years, even if that student decides to switch to another university after a year. That new academic institution then receives no financing for that first year.

The issue of ‘matching’ is an obstacle as well: often, when universities win a research grant, they need to put in extra money. As a result, the quality of education can suffer. So, there is a financial downside to success which can suddenly lead to budgetary deficits elsewhere.


“People have so many different opinions on this subject,” says Margo van Oosterhout, spokeswomen of the commission-Van Rijn. “Because so many parties are involved: educational institutions, students, academics, the business community… We want to be available to everyone, and hear as many opinions as possible.”

If you have questions, ideas, suggestions or want to react, you can turn to a ‘digital office.’ The committee will issue its recommendations in April.

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