Today, Dutch research universities, universities of applied sciences and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science signed an administrative agreement to improve the higher education and research system and address fundamental bottlenecks. In the coming years, they will strive to strengthen the system’s foundations and make room for diverse talent in order to increase their impact on society. Minister Dijkgraaf, Maurice Limmen (president of the Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences) and Pieter Duisenberg (president of Universities of the Netherlands) signed the administrative agreement today at Fontys University of Applied Sciences in Eindhoven. In the administrative agreement, Minister Dijkgraaf elaborates the resources and instruments he mentioned in the policy letter on higher education and research that he sent to both Houses of the States General recently.
Accessible and high quality
The three parties agree that the Netherlands has a strong and accessible higher education and research system that is of a high quality across the board. This system is supported by a large number of centres of excellence. Dutch knowledge institutions already perform well in international rankings. As a system, they do even better.
With the administrative agreement, the parties aim to address a number of persistent bottlenecks by following three main lines of action:
1)Strengthening the foundations
The minister will invest in sector plans for research universities, starter and stimulation grants for researchers, applied research at universities of applied sciences and steps to improve the quality of teaching.
2)Making room for diverse talent
Strong foundations will make it possible to pay greater attention to equality of opportunity and student well-being. As an example, institutions, the private sector and students are working together to address discrimination during internships. They recently signed a manifesto to this end. Another aim of the administrative agreement is to reduce workloads (e.g. through stimulation grants) and improve social safety, among other things through enhanced monitoring of experienced social safety.
3)Increasing the impact on society
The parties want to increase the impact of research on society by promoting the transfer of knowledge from knowledge institutions. A smoother transition from higher education to the labour market will help to achieve this aim. Initiatives in this context will include activities to increase student intake in sectors where there are shortages, such as health care, science and technology, and education. In addition, the minister will draw up a plan for universities of applied sciences to revitalise degree programmes in regions experiencing population decline.
This autumn will see the launch of an exploratory study into a future-proof higher education and research system. This is because the system will need to cope with challenges that include demographic change: while universities of applied sciences in some regions are facing a reduced student intake, research universities are having to deal with such large student numbers that they are at risk of becoming congested. Another factor is that the boundaries between scientific and vocationally oriented teaching and research are becoming ever more blurred. Finally, it is essential for the Netherlands to be able to respond quickly to urgent crises or shortages.
The future study will begin in September 2022 and is expected to end before the summer of 2023. Based on the outcomes of this future study, the minister will write to the House of Representatives in 2023 to propose statutory control instruments that will enable research universities to control international student numbers in a targeted fashion, without prejudice to the advantages of internationalisation.
The administrative agreement also specifies that research universities must exercise considerable restraint when it comes to changing the language of instruction of degree programmes to English and recruiting students from abroad. Moreover, research universities must advise international students proactively about the limited availability of student accommodation in most student cities.
Minister Dijkgraaf (Education, Culture and Science): ‘A strong and accessible higher education and research system is of vital importance to the Netherlands’ position as a knowledge economy. We are facing daunting challenges. I am pleased that this administrative agreement with the Dutch research universities and universities of applied sciences takes a constructive approach, not least to involving students, teaching staff and researchers in future steps. Only by working together can we achieve a sustainable and future-proof system.’