The state budget contains no austerity measures, but neither does it earmark extra funds for education. The budget underlines the value of excellent education without providing additional funding. There are some setbacks in the budget, but no new austerity measures are foreseen. More students choose to follow a schooling trajectory than previously predicted, which results in additional funding (up to 482 million in 2025) for schools, colleges and universities.
But, the corona crisis has shaken up higher education. The buildings are too small to provide enough space between students, so large portions of the curriculum are still offered through online education. Everyone, including the parliament, regrets this state of affairs, but not much is done to remedy the situation. Universities and universities of applied science are not provided with an additional budget to rent larger buildings or improve their online education.
The National Student Union is not impressed. The union feels the quality of education is under threat, as are equality of opportunities and student well-being. ‘The minister of Education repeatedly stresses that students’ inability to meet is tragic, but does not free up funds to tackle the problem.’ Universities and universities of applied science see a similar pattern. The association of Dutch universities (Dutch acronym VSNU) would like to see ‘structural investments in the fundamentals of science.’
The general budget appears to vehemently agree with the critics. ‘Investing in each person’s talent is of critical importance for future prosperity’, the budget states. ‘Moreover, it should be noted that education was severely impacted by the social distancing measures this year.’
However, all this insight is not translated into action, although the government has earmarked 500 million extra to combat ‘backlogs’ in education in 2020 and 2021. This includes 200 million to compensate delayed graduates. Students who obtain a bachelor or masters degree before 31 January 2021 are reimbursed for three months of tuition fees.