Higher education budget – the calm before the storm
There is a hole in the budget of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. The next government will have to eliminate a deficit of 244 million euros. Students and universities are frightened at this prospect.
“We are talking about huge amounts of money that are currently being passed on”, said Bart Pierik, a spokesman for the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU). “We assume that it will be mended in the new coalition agreement, which should quickly provide certainty on this.”
The president of the Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences, Thom de Graaf, hopes that the returns from the new student loan system will also be preserved for education in the coming years. “Students are paying more for their studies and rightly expect these resources to be deployed on the quality of higher education.” The shortfalls have to be eliminated, he warned.
Student organisations are also concerned about the deficit. “I’m really frightened about this”, said Rhea van der Dong, president of the ISO. “It’s a bit like leaving your student room in an awful mess for the next student when you move house.”
Deeper in debt
The LSVb is “deeply disappointed” with the budget, that brings little that is new for students. “During the King’s Speech, the king said that the road ahead is clear for the Netherlands. However, students are increasingly going into debt”, said LSVb president Tariq Sewbaransingh.
The next government really must take a decision about the 244 million euro hole in the budget, said the ministry today. This has been agreed with the VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie coalition parties.
However, it places a certain strain on the amounts that are to be announced today. Of course, thanks to the new student loan system, universities and universities of applied sciences will in principle receive additional funding, of 79 million and 129 million euros respectively. But when you add these up, it is than the 244 million euro shortfall.
Even the higher salaries and improved terms of employment for primary school teachers (270 million euros) would be almost absorbed at a stroke by the budget shortfall. It makes it difficult to determine the value of this ‘interim budget’.
The deficit has arisen because there are more pupils and students. There is also something else going on, which in The Hague they call the “terms of exchange problem” –while it is true that wages are rising, ministry budgets are not.
So, all of the pros and cons are still subject to provisos. Furthermore, they are constantly juggling with the figures. How much funding do universities and universities of applied sciences actually receive for each student? According to the ministry, it is around seven thousand euros, which is more than last year. However, the universities think that research funding should be included in this figure. “This brings down the funding for each student”, said VSNU spokesman, Bart Pierik.
This week there will not be any general political reflections on the new budget, as in previous years. After all, there is no government in place. Who would the lower house debate with? So, now it is a case of waiting for a new government and a new coalition agreement.