Why is the budget of Dutch universities based on 37 year-old data?
The politicians in The Hague are surprised. According to the Court of Audit, the Ministry of Education calculates the universities’ budget based on information from 37 years ago. Shouldn't it have been updated by now?
The information in question relates to how lecturers spend their working hours, in other words how much time goes to research and how much time goes to teaching. On that basis, the funding for universities has been split in 2001 into two parts: education and research. The sum allocated to education grew according to the number of student enroled, but the amount allocated to research has basically remained the same.
The House of Representatives wants to know why. In a short letter, outgoing Minister of Education Ingrid van Engelshoven admitted that the Court of Audit was right. A study from 1984 was the only source used by the ministry.
She added that there has been no support base for another such study, and that the imbalance in the budget has long been acknowledged. Indeed, consultancy firm PwC has stated that Dutch universities need more money.
Political parties VVD, D66 and SP found the ministry's explanation way too simplistic, so they asked a few additional questions (link in Dutch). Is it really necessary to have a support base in the universities to conduct such a study again, wonders VVD. Doesn’t the minister herself want to know how lecturers spend their time?
SP agreed, noting that university staff might be interested in a study like that, even though their management might think otherwise.
37 years old
If that information is 37 years old, then what about other calculations, estimates and assessments in the higher education sector? SP wonders if the minister would like to take a closer look at them and update them if necessary.
Finally, D66 inquired why that budget split exists in the first place. Universities also get a ‘fixed base’ – an amount that they receive regardless, separate from teaching and research. For old universities that amount is higher than for newer universities. D66 wonders why.
To sum up, the House of Representatives is not happy that something as fundamental as the allocation of the money for universities is based on dated information. The minister was unable to give an immediate answer, so the debate will resume at a later date.