Prince's Day 2020
This year's festivities on Prince's Day (the Dutch Budget Day) may be modest, but the national budget offers positive points of departure for science. The most important news was already announced last week in the form of the National Growth Fund. In addition, the Dutch national budget shows that the government did not provide for any new investments or cutbacks in higher education during the coronavirus period. VSNU President Pieter Duisenberg: 'The investments in research and innovation via the Growth Fund are important. At the same time, this does not yet provide a solution for the application-related pressure, matching pressure and work pressure of our employees, which will require long-term investments in the foundations of science. If the coronavirus crisis is teaching us just one thing, it is how important knowledge and expertise are for our country’s resilience.'
Last week saw the announcement of a National Growth Fund that will make €20 billion available over the next five years. A significant portion of this is earmarked for research, innovation and educational innovation, and the VSNU therefore responded positively to the news. However, it is important for projects in the Growth Fund to be financed at full cost, so as not to increase the matching pressure even further. VSNU President Duisenberg: 'The fact that the government no longer regards education and research as expenditure but as investments in the future of the Netherlands is a fundamental shift. Now we just need the CPB [Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis] models to do the same.'
In contrast to previous years, the new Dutch national budget that was presented today does not contain any unexpected cuts or targets. This stability is important, especially during a time in which lecturers are making every effort to ensure the continuity of education. However, this does not change the fact that structural investments in universities are badly needed in view of the high workload, the decreasing government funding per student and the need for investments in fundamental research. As the government itself states in the Budget Memorandum: ‘The Netherlands cannot afford to leave talent untapped.’ Duisenberg: 'In my opinion, the bar needs to be raised in the coming period: our lecturers are under significant pressure and our neighbouring countries are making significant investments. It is time for the Netherlands to also take a step towards structurally strengthening the foundations of the universities in order to maintain our national and international position.'
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