24 March 2017 • HOP, by Bas Belleman
Bussemaker: basic grant money meant only for higher education
Should institutions of higher education be permitted to devote part of the funding released from the abolished basic grant to research and valorisation? Minister Bussemaker doesn’t think so.
Last Monday, The Dutch National Students’ Association (ISO) and the Dutch National Student Union (LSVb) led the way in reacting critically to a report entitled Van afvinken naar aanvonken (from checking off to firing up). According to this report produced by a committee, institutions of higher education could use the funding previously allocated to the basic grant to promote educational quality.
Bussemaker, now the outgoing minister, is also critical. In a brief letter to the Lower House, she emphasised that the money is intended for improving higher education. ‘I see no reason to deviate from this.’
Now that the basic grant is abolished and hundreds of millions of euros will be available to institutions of higher education, politicians want to make ‘quality agreements’. But what would they look like? The committee led by the King’s Commissioner, Wim van de Donk, had to provide advice in this regard.
Written in cautious officialese, the committee indicated a relationship among the quality of education, research and valorisation. ‘Resources for educational quality could thus be used in a broader sense than for educational quality alone.’
Students don’t agree. Institutions of higher education were also quick to disapprove of deviating from earlier promises. They also had harsh criticism with regard to other points.
Minister Bussemaker, however, didn’t concern herself with these. She praised the committee and spoke of ‘valuable recommendations for the development of future quality agreements’. She will be preparing these quality agreements during her last period as minister. ‘I will leave the decision-making process, however, up to the new Cabinet.
In recent years, higher education was involved in an experiment with performance agreements. Institutions of higher education and the Ministry of Education had arrived at agreements about such aspects as the rate at which students complete their degree programme, the dropout rate among first-year students, and the continuing education of lecturers. If they were unable to satisfy these agreements, they would lose part of their funding. This actually happened to six universities of applied sciences.
The Van de Donk Committee will have to look at what could be learned from that experiment in arriving at its recommendations for the future.