The universities are in discussion with the university community to agree on proper expenditure of the funding that will become available from 2018 onwards as a result of the student loan system. This discussion between staff, students and administrators at each university must result in an individual education investment agenda that is used as a basis for allocating the funds brought in by the student loan system.
Continuation or development of new performance agreements that hold the universities accountable to measurable indicators is extremely undesirable. The process that the universities would like to see is much better than top-down performance agreements, as students and lecturers know far more about specific educational challenges and issues than the government does.
Research universities, universities of applied sciences and the student organisations ISO and LSVb have agreed on the ambitions to increase educational quality. The resources from the student loan system must be spent on more intensive education, more and better supervision of students, further professionalisation of lecturers, and suitable study facilities.
Strategic educational vision for the collective of universities
In June 2015, the VSNU presented the strategic educational vision of the collective of universities, including its ambitions for the years to come. Amongst other matters, the universities would like to improve the teacher-student ratio, achieve greater diversity in study programmes, get the best researchers teaching classes and intensify contact between students and lecturers through more individual feedback and supervision.
Collective investment agenda of ISO, LSVb, VH and VSNU
The ISO (Dutch National Student Association), the LSVb (Dutch National Union of Students), Vereniging Hogescholen (Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences) and the VSNU have compiled a collective investment agenda, the core issue of which is that the investment must go towards increasing the quality of higher education to ensure all students benefit from it. This will incentivise improvement of the quality of higher education, in which more students are currently enrolled than ever before. The resources will be used for smaller-scale and more intensive education, further professionalisation of university lecturers and modernisation of study facilities, amongst other purposes. Not all universities of applied sciences and research universities have the same investment needs. For this reason, it is of great importance to all four parties that the specific investments within the individual research universities and universities of applied sciences are determined in conjunction with students and lecturers. Only in this way can you accommodate the entirety of the diverse and distinctive higher education landscape in the Netherlands. For this reason, we only want to make an outline agreement with the government rather than establish a new, detailed model of performance agreements and government control. Furthermore, together with the introduction of the student loan system, it was also arranged that representative advisory councils would be given right of approval regarding the outline of the budget in order to reinforce the right of participation.
Strategic agenda by Minister Bussemaker
In July 2015, Minister of Education, Culture and Science Jet Bussemaker presented the Strategic Agenda for Higher Education 2015–2025, entitled 'De waarde(n) van weten' (The Value of Knowledge).
The universities endorse the ambitions in the strategic agenda. However, it is important to stay realistic. The budgets are limited and the universities are faced with difficult choices. The universities are asking for trust and sufficient freedom to set priorities at the local level in conjunction with the representative advisory bodies.
The universities support the investment areas that will be further elaborated at the local level in close consultation with the representative advisory bodies. They are hesitant about the various national funds and targeted subsidies established by the minister, warning of an increase in bureaucracy.
Furthermore, the minister's strategic agenda is based on the anticipation of a subsequent outline agreement and quality agreements. The universities emphasise that the current instruments for outline agreements and performance agreements must first be thoroughly evaluated before entering into discussions about the design of quality agreements. The emphasis must be on strengthening the internal dialogue with students and staff with regard to policy. Via the individual institutional plans, the universities will subsequently render account to society and the government for the decisions made.