31 May 2017 • HOP, by Bas Belleman
‘Let the Dutch Inspectorate of Education keep an eye on the basic grant money’
When it comes to the millions resulting from the student loan system, not a ‘single red cent’ should be lost according to the Dutch National Students’ Association (ISO) and the Dutch National Student Union (LSVb). They want the Inspectorate of Education to supervise how this money is spent.
Students no longer receive a basic grant, so they want something in return. The money generated by this cutback should be spent only on education, warn the ISO and LSVb, and not on buildings, research or valorisation.
In a proposal they issued on Monday, they suggested having the Inspectorate of Education keep an eye on this. After all, this inspectorate is ‘the long arm’ of the Ministry of Education.
Yellow and red cards
According to the plan issued by these two student organisations, institutions of higher education would be held accountable every year for how they spent this money. The inspectors could hand out a yellow caution card if a school stumbles in its efforts to comply, and even a red foul card if it doesn’t improve matters: in this case, the Minister of Education could withdraw the school’s funding.
The exact use of the money (and the improvement of education) should be negotiated by students, lecturers and administrators, suggest the ISO and LSVb. ‘But these agreements would then have to be complied with,’ said Jan Sinnige, Chairman of the ISO.
So why do staff and student councils need the help of the Inspectorate of Education in monitoring the quality agreements? ‘Understanding what budgets are really saying is very difficult for staff and student councils,’ said Sinnige. ‘It is therefore wise to have an expert look at them: did the money really get spent on the right things? This saves us hours of puzzling over where the money went.’
No messing around
Could the Inspectorate really monitor these expenditures properly? If board members wanted, they could spend the money generated by the student loan system while cutting corners on education elsewhere in the budget. ‘That’s a problem you just can’t escape,’ said Sinnige. ‘No system is perfect. What we’re saying is that you shouldn’t mess around with the basic grant money. Our plan simply maximises the possibility of ensuring that the money is spent properly.’
The government’s job, according to the ISO and LSVb, is just to distribute the money in proportion to the number of students – not to be involved in exactly how it is spent. They repeated that they don’t want another round of performance agreements such as the ones that applied to higher education in previous years. These, they said, led to ‘an excessive focus on success rate measures’.