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Universities: quality satisfactory, urgent measures to tackle bottlenecks now required, long-term investments needed

Today the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) will present an analysis of bottlenecks entitled ‘Ruimte voor investeringen en talent’ (‘Room for investment and talent’). This analysis gives a picture of the quality of teaching and research, as well as the ambitions, bottlenecks and possible solutions. A wealth of information about developments within universities, such as the growth in the number of students and the funding of teaching and research, was collected to compile this analysis. The conclusion is that, in comparison with other countries, the quality of teaching and research is high, and ambitions too remain equally high, but that the enormous growth in both student numbers, coupled with the lack of funding for teaching and research have led to excessive workloads among staff, putting the quality of teaching and research under pressure. 

Measures are urgently required. Some of these have already been initiated, such as provisions in the new collective agreement regarding flexible employment, and coordination between different technical degree programmes within the framework of the Technology Pact. In addition, the universities will announce today that they are going to create scope for improvement through collaborative investments. Moreover, the national government’s expected financial adjustments will be immediately incorporated into budgets, meaning that funding will become available more quickly. The government too can contribute by providing financial incentives for dealing with urgent bottlenecks. But additional budget is not the only solution: much can be achieved in a budget-neutral manner by using funds that are freed up by deploying study loans at an earlier point in time. 

In order to alleviate the most urgent bottlenecks in the short term, the universities have announced their own collaborative measures. VSNU President Pieter Duisenberg: ‘It is extremely important for the future of our country that we invest heavily in academic teaching and research. Because urgent action is required, we are taking steps ourselves for the short term. Universities will be investing more collaboratively. We are also going to be releasing funds for education before the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science has announced the definite amount of their contribution. We can therefore tackle some bottlenecks ourselves, but in order to keep it up we expect the government, along with the business community, to take up the gauntlet’.

In the long term, the funding system itself needs to be revised. And it isn’t only apportionment that is relevant here: additional (macro) budget is required in order to maintain the quality of teaching and research, as well as the accessibility of academic education. Duisenberg: ‘By taking their own measures and analysing bottlenecks, the universities hope to contribute to the discussion around the future of the Netherlands as a nation of knowledge in a constructive and urgent manner’. 


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