Saturday 19 June 2021

Universities call on next cabinet to increase their funding by €1.1bn

University protests in Nijmegen. Photo: Marcel Krijgsman ANP / HH

Students and university staff have launched a campaign to persuade the next government to increase spending on higher education, saying the quality is under threat because of continuing cuts.

The main problem is down to government funding, which is based on a lump sum and student numbers, universities say. In 2002, the Netherlands’ 14 universities received some €20,000 per student per year but by last year this had fallen to €15,100.

In total, universities need investment of €1.1bn to keep teaching and research standards up to scratch, according to earlier calculations by PWC on behalf of the education ministry.

‘You have less time to prepare lectures and your groups are fuller,’ Casper Albers, a professor of statistics at the University of Groningen told NOS radio. ‘You used to have 15 students in a group, now there are more than 20. There are stresses and strains everywhere.’

Tuesday’s campaign kicked off with a symbolic leap into the Hofvijver pond outside the parliamentary complex, to demonstrate that universities are barely keeping their heads above water.

There were similar symbolic protests by lakes and rivers in other university towns.

Students are increasingly aware that their lecturers are overworked. ‘We get emails from them at night because they do not get to our questions sooner,’ said Freya Chiappino, vice-president of the National Students Union.

This academic year, the number of first year university bachelor students rose 13% and there was a 19% rise in the number of graduates signing up for a master’s degree. Economics, law, and the social and behavioral sciences showed the strongest growth in student numbers.

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