Reactions to outline agreement: “Blow to universities”

The outline agreement of the four ruling parties contains drastic cuts to education and science. While stakeholders see some positive points despite all the lost billions, the intended course of action of the Wilders-1 cabinet can mainly count on criticism.

photo Tweede Kamer

For a reaction to the outline agreement, TU/e refers to the press release of Universities of the Netherlands (UNL). It states that the universities are shocked by the cuts to education, research and innovation. UNL describes it as a blow. According to the umbrella organization, the cuts put the jobs of 1,200 scientists at risk. Jouke de Vries, interim president of Universities of the Netherlands: “Along with the significant crackdown on the international character of universities, these cuts are damaging to our good education and research. This does not align with the ambition of the forming parties to strengthen the Dutch knowledge economy and earning capacity. It puts the future of our country’s youth at risk.”

The General Education Union, which represents the interests of people who work at universities and research institutions, reacts in a nuanced manner to the section on education in the agreement. The Union sees “positive starting points”, particularly in the announcement for fewer subsidies and more structural financing of education. However, AOb chair Tamar van Gelder says this is in direct opposition to the announced cuts in the sector plans and the Research and Science Fund. As such, these must be taken off the table, the press release states.

The Dutch National Student Association (ISO), which represents the interests of some 800,000 students, speaks of a “black day for students”. The organization believes that the new cabinet plans to “slowly bury further education”, and denounces the long-term study penalty, reduction of the basic student grant and broken promises to the “bad-luck generation”, who will receive a (small) compensation, but no interest reduction on their student debt. “Dear student, we can imagine this is a lot to process,” the organization concludes its press release.

Unions mostly negative

Elisa Weehuizen, chair of the Dutch Student Union (LSVb) has “nothing but harsh words” about the agreement, she says when asked. Still, Weehuizen is not surprised. “We were expecting the worst and this agreement shows that was justified. There are structural cuts to universities and universities of applied sciences. This is going to have a major impact on students’ knowledge development. It’s a new low.”

Regarding the small compensation for students of the bad-luck generation, Weehuizen says her “trust in politics has been wounded”. The long-term study penalty is also a thorn in her side. “We see report after report showing how students are suffering under enormous performance pressure and now, they are being deprived of the time and space to develop themselves. I urge every student to join their local student union and stand against these plans.”

Jaws dropped at FNV when they read the outline agreement. The union speaks out against the cuts, including those to education. “This goes beyond all limits,” says union chair Tuur Elzinga on the FNV website. Unions VNO-NCW and MKB Nederland, on the other hand, do support the agreement. “With new strategic investment agendas containing agreements on housing, accessibility, education and the economy, an effective implementation can be achieved in the near future, with entrepreneurs keen to contribute and provide input,” they write in a joint statement. However, they do have concerns about the termination of the Growth Fund “at a time when innovation is more important than ever.”

CNV Onderwijs sees “fine words” about education, especially on the tackling of the proliferation of subsidies, but has many questions about the feasibility of all the plans. Board member Daniëlle Woestenberg: “The cabinet claims it wants to strengthen the knowledge infrastructure, but is cutting 1.1 billion from the Research and Science Fund. How does that make sense? The cabinet announces a Quality Education Recovery Plan, but does not outline any direction or allocate any funding for it. How does that make sense?” Woestenberg emphasizes that the success of the education plans depends entirely on their implementation. “Empty phrases, that really is the last thing education needs right now.”

Empty promises

Opposition parties react with criticism to the outline agreement. D66 leader Rob Jetten believes it is full of “empty promises on financial quicksand.” He specifically addressed the cuts to education and science. He calls them “the largest of the past century” and a “capital mistake”.

The new government coalition has presented the outline agreement. Click here to read more about the contents of the agreement in terms of education, science and innovation.

Share this article