4 June 2018 • HOP, Steffi Weber
Higher education fears a new round of cut backs
Higher education fears new cut backs now that there is talk of a budget shortfall in the Ministry of Education. Should the system used to estimate numbers of students be changed?
This year, the Ministry is facing a shortfall of 172 million euros in its budget because more students are due to graduate than expected. The forecast for next year is a shortfall of 200 million euros. The education sector is looking at the future with trepidation because a previous budget shortfall led to a series of cut backs, the ‘targeted spending cap’ of 183 million euros.
“The higher estimate for 2018 seems to be covered, but we are concerned about the next few years,” says a spokesperson of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU). “Will we have enough resources or will there again be a gap in the budget?” The budget forecast should be more reliable, say the students too. “The budgets shouldn’t be moved around year after year,” says chair Rhea van der Dong of the Dutch National Students’ Association (ISO). Member of the House of Representatives, Harry van der Molen of the coalition CDA party, finds it “striking” that there is a budget shortfall in the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science “year in year out”. “The Ministry should put its efforts into finding a better way to predict student numbers.”
But a spokesperson of the Ministry says that there is nothing wrong with the way in which the estimate is calculated. “It may sound strange, but we are quite good at predicting student numbers. This year we were only 0.84 percent out. But on a budget of several billions, this shows up in a difference of more than one hundred million euros.” The Ministry is prepared to see if it can better calculate the differences in the “budgetary aspects”. “We now respond to a shortfall or an excess every year. We want to see if we can balance the peaks and troughs better, for example by taking an average. But I can’t say anything about this now.”
The Government’s Spring Memorandum also shows that the cut backs – or targeted spending cap – of 183 million euros across the entire education sector will remain on the books despite protests. The WOinactie campaign group gave the Minister an ultimatum last week and threatened with national protests in the week following Budget Day if the targeted spending cap is not off the table. The initiator, Rens Bod, assumes that the coalition government will solve the new shortfall amongst themselves. “We can’t again have this coming at the expense of higher education,” he says.