Higher education and ‘unlucky students’ risk missing out on millions

Outgoing Education Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf is reiterating the need for speedy action: if parliament does not discuss his bill abolishing ‘quality-based funding’ soon, higher education institutions and former students will lose out.

photo iStock | Andrii Yalanskyi

Elimination of the basic student grant in 2015 freed up additional funding for higher education: up to 659 million euros a year. Higher education institutions had to use this money to improve the quality of education. The Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO) assessed whether their plans met the bar. But now that the basic grant has been reinstated, outgoing Minister Dijkgraaf wants funds to go directly to the institutions, as before.

140 million for unlucky students

His legislative amendment providing for this is still awaiting approval by the House and Senate. In the same go, his bill would also increase compensation for the generation of students who missed out on the basic grant, adjusting it for 2023 and 2024 inflation. This would amount to an additional 140 million euros.

In late 2023, the Dutch House moved to declare the bill ‘controversial’ until a new cabinet took office. The VVD party in particular, which favours stricter requirements for higher education funding, was not ready to abolish quality-based funding just yet. However, after an earlier appeal by outgoing Minister Dijkgraaf and a motion by the D66 party, a majority reconsidered. But there has been little progress since.

Dijkgraaf is thus reiterating that the bill must be discussed in the House and Senate before 1 July. Failing this, a whole new round of quality-based planning will be needed before schools receive any money. Dijkgraaf: “A new round would significantly increase the regulatory burden on all higher education institutions; the new plans would have to be drawn up and then assessed by the NVAO within an all but impossible timeframe.”

Shrinking regions

Should the legislation be passed in time, the funds will be paid directly to institutions on 1 January 2025. “This increase in the fixed base is particularly important for higher education institutions in regions where populations are shrinking, by ensuring more stable funding despite declining student enrolments”, the minister said.

Students who missed out on the basic grant will also benefit. Those who were enrolled under the loan system for four years (and who graduate within ten) will receive an additional 200 euros, raising the sum from 1,436 to 1,640 euros.

MP Jan Paternotte (D66) reported that the bill is slated for House discussion “soon”.

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