GroenLinks wants to delay extra investment for TU’s

| HOP, Bas Belleman

If the Dutch government is going to invest in knowledge and innovation in the near future, why is it in such a rush to shift money to the technical universities? Put that plan on hold, says the opposition green party GroenLinks.

The government wants to take money away from the ‘general’ universities and give it to the technical universities. ‘I am concerned about this,’ said GroenLinks party leader Jesse Klaver yesterday during the General Political Debate in the House of Representatives, ‘because what we actually need to do is invest in the broad development of higher education and academic research.’

He referred to the investment agenda for knowledge and innovation that the government is working on. ‘Wouldn’t it be a good idea to put this shift on hold for a while, until we know what we want to do with this investment agenda? I can imagine that it means extra investment in natural science and technology degree programmes.’

Wrong impression

He asked the question of Rob Jetten, party leader of coalition party Democrats 66 (D66), who agreed to some extent. ‘In recent times, a kind of sentiment has emerged that the natural sciences and technology are better than the humanities and social sciences,’ Jetten admitted. ‘In my opinion, this impression is very wrong. I agree completely with Mr Klaver that we really must stop contrasting science and technology on the one hand with the humanities and social sciences on the other.’

But Jetten did not want to put the government’s intervention itself into question. He noted that the government is making 41 million euros available ‘to compensate for the shift and ensure that there is no huge squeeze in the initial years.’ Jetten: ‘If we can find a good solution for the following years, I’m certainly open to it.’

In the General Political Debate, the House of Representatives discusses the national budget submitted by the government on Budget Day. The debate continues today. During autumn, there will be debates on the budgets of the individual ministries.

Basic student grant

The basic student grant was also discussed yesterday, but there was little news on the subject. The parties stuck to their established positions: little is going to change during this government. But coalition party Christian Democratic Alliance (CDA) doesn’t want to ‘sit still’ until the next elections, said party leader Pieter Heerma. He already wants to start talking with other parties about an alternative.

It was striking that even D66, upon being questioned by political party DENK, distanced itself somewhat from the current student loan system, which was ‘born out of necessity’. ‘Firstly, there is the question of whether the money from the basic student grant actually ended up in the right place, that is to say improving the quality of higher education,’ said Jetten. ‘Secondly: what are the effects of the social loan system on access to higher education?’

Maybe more students need to receive a supplementary grant, Jetten considered. He doesn’t want to have the old basic grant back again, ‘because with it, the young man on the building site paid for the future lawyer’s studies’.