Netherlands to invest more money in education
Budget Day: support for students, millions for research
Last Tuesday was "Budget Day" in the Netherlands. On "Budget Day", the king addresses a joint session of the States-General to describe the main features of government policy in the year ahead, revealing how the budget is going to be spent.
When it comes to education, there were no significant surprises in this year’s speech. The research budgets had already been allocated last spring and the increased allowance for students not living with their parents had already been all over the news a few weeks prior.
Basic student grant
The basic grant for higher education students, a benefit scrapped in 2015 in favour of a loan system, is going to be reintroduced in September 2023. Students living with their parents will receive 110 euros a month, while those who move out will receive 274 euros. On top of that amount, students who move out will also get a monthly bonus of 165 euros, according to the new state budget. This additional support will be available for one academic year and is set to cost the treasury around 500 million euros. Over a twelve-month period, students not living with their parents will save almost 2,000 euros thanks to this temporary scheme.
The students who fail to graduate within ten years will have to pay back everything they got from the government: that means the basic student grant, the additional one-year allowance, and the public transport pass.
The Cabinet could also have chosen to lower the tuition fees, which it did during the pandemic. That would also benefit those who drop out and those who are taking longer to finish their studies and are not entitled to the basic grant. But lowering the tuition fees would also benefit students living with their parents, who don't have as many expenses as the ones who move out. The Dutch government does not want to use the basic student grant to support students living with their parents.
Another announcement that is relevant for students is that the healthcare benefits will be increased. Most students currently receive 1,332 euros in yearly healthcare benefits. This was supposed to be raised to 1,438 euros under previous plans, but thanks to a new purchasing power relief package worth billions of euros, the amount for 2023 is now 1,850 euros.
Still, the government is not willing to give energy allowances to students, even though a student in Nijmegen recently won a court case in which he demanded access to the scheme. According to the government, this legal victory only shows that municipalities should offer students a “reasonable alternative” in case of emergency, in the form of individual assistance.
The government is allocating an additional 35 million euros to make this possible, hoping that the assistance will allow municipalities to prevent a significant number of students from applying for the energy allowance.
Next year, universities will receive 300 million euros worth of working capital for researchers, in the form of starter and incentive grants. Half of this money is supposed to be spent on permanent contracts for new lecturers, while the rest can be spent freely.
The budget also envisages "sector plans", strategies to be drawn up by degree programmes and researchers from different institutions to strengthen teaching and research. To qualify for this funding, universities must give out more permanent contracts. The budget doesn’t list a specific amount for this item, but the Minister of Education, Robbert Dijkgraaf, announced that he would reserve 200 million euros for this.
Minister Dijkgraaf had already announced most of these plans last spring. Some budget items have no end date and constitute structural investments, while others will expire after ten years or some other fixed period. Most of the relief measures will only be in place for one year.
The budget also contains a notable windfall: fewer students are expected to enrol in universities of applied sciences, saving the government an estimated 138.6 million euros each year.