28 September 2018 • HOP, Bas Belleman
Minister wants to spend money from the basic grant ahead of time
In various cities, university lecturers protested against the cuts to higher education. The cabinet should scrap the cuts (‘the targeted spending cap’) says protest movement WOinActie. And in fact, there should be over a billion euros extra each year.
The minister acknowledges the high workloads at universities and is open to thinking about a solution. For instance, she wants to stabilise funding so the institutions can give their staff permanent jobs more easily.
At the start of this month, universities of applied sciences and research universities suggested a more radical idea to lighten the financial pressure on higher education: Why should we have to wait for years to get the hundreds of millions from the new loans system, when we could spend them now? The idea is that the government spends the money on higher education now that will only be in the treasury in a few years’ time; it’s called a fund transfer.
Van Engelshoven is open to the idea, she writes. Participation councils at universities of applied sciences and research universities are currently working on plans for how to spend the basic grant millions. If they have good reasons to spend the money earlier, then she wants to cooperate.
The new loans system introduced in 2015, in which since students no longer receive a basic grant, did not result in money straight away. Higher education had to wait a few years for it. The first 200 million was made available only this year.
Previously, students living away from home received a basic grant of 3,300 euros per year for four years. Students living at home received 1,200 euros per year. If they graduated the amount was waived. Now, they can borrow money but have to pay it back in the end. The money will only come in when they start paying it back.
The yield could be as high as a billion euros, said the architects of the new loans system, even though for that they would have to realise a saving of 200 millions on the student pass for public transport, which seemed somewhat unrealistic from the outset. If the money is actually brought forward with a fund transfer, then that peak in yield will flatten out and that billion will be even further out of sight.