VVD and D66 want to make “significant investments” in education and science

No specific amounts have been mentioned yet, but VVD and D66 want to make “significant investments in education and science”. This is one of the conclusions drawn by inquirer Mariëtte Hamer in her final report on the recent efforts to form a new coalition government.

photo Andrey Popov / Shutterstock

Hamer resigned from her role as inquirer yesterday and presented her conclusions. In the report, she describes the main points VVD and D66 were able to agree on, and which GroenLinks and PvdA were willing to discuss. A government including these two parties has been ruled out, however.

More money

VVD and D66, two liberal parties currently working together in the caretaker cabinet, want to increase public as well as private investment in research and innovation. They are choosing to focus on three major transitions: climate & energy, digitisation & key technologies and the circular economy.

The plan is to “pull out all the stops” for scientific research. The parties also want to eliminate “perverse incentives” by offering more fixed and less flexible funding. The aim is to tackle the issue of work pressure in secondary vocational education, higher education and research, and to shift the focus from quantity to quality.

Flexible education

Another ambition of the two parties is to “allow all talent to thrive” by 2030. Students should feel free to “design their own degree programmes, based on their own ambitions”. This could mean doing an internship abroad, starting a business or combining studies with a job or care responsibilities.

Access to education is to become more flexible. And if it’s up to VVD and D66, every student should be able to study abroad. (Under the current system, students who go abroad already have access to student loans and tuition fee credit.)

Second degree

The parties want to set an upper limit for the costs of pursuing a second degree, writing that “your first degree shouldn’t have to be your last”. It is not yet clear whether this upper limit would be lower than the current cap, which was set in 2019.

VVD and D66 also want to make it more attractive for students to enrol in programmes that prepare them for work in sectors currently experiencing personnel shortages. Details aren’t provided, but lower tuition fees could be on the table. These are already offered to second-year students in teacher training programmes.

Students loans

The report does not mention the return of the basic student grant, much to the disappointment of the Dutch National Student Association (ISO). ISO chair Lisanne de Roos calls it “highly disappointing” that this has not yet been included in the formation talks.

What’s next?

Hamer now recommends forming a minority government – something VVD leader Mark Rutte isn’t unfamiliar with. His second cabinet (VVD-PvdA) did not have a Senate majority, which meant that cabinet members had to continuously seek support from the opposition.

It remains to be seen what the formation of a minority government would mean for higher education, especially when it comes to the return of the basic student grant. A majority of the House of Representatives wants to do something about the current loan system, but parties have floated various solutions. D66, for instance, wants to offer students certain tax benefits. Meanwhile, only the VVD remains firmly behind the student loan system.

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