Meanwhile, this summer...

| Hoger Onderwijs Persbureau

Parasols have been folded or blown away, suitcases have been unpacked and the sun sometimes peeks through the clouds. But what’s been happening in higher education this summer?

Request the basic student grant on time...

Over 391 thousand students and recent secondary school graduates have already requested the basic grant from the Education Executive Agency (DUO). That is approximately 90 percent of the students expected to do so. If you file your request before 1 September, you will receive your first grant instalment in September.

DUO’s campaign entitled ‘Jouw basis, jouw beurs’ (Your basics, your grant) is on the home straight. Communications on the subject are once again displayed to young people on social media and the campaign also targets parents. The grant amounts to 110 euros a month for students living at home, and to 439 euros for students living away from home (including 164 euros as a temporary measure relating to purchasing power).

... and don’t commit fraud!

Student financing body DUO ignored previous indications that the battle against fraud involving the basic student grant had a discriminatory element, writes investigative platform Investico. At least two lawyers and a student had already spoken up about the matter before DUO claimed to be unaware of anything of the sort.

Last June, HOP, Investico and NOSop3 reported that DUO fraud hunters mostly catch students with migration backgrounds. Almost all court cases on the surveillance of people not living with their parents and receiving the basic student grant involve this group of students. It turns out the chance of mistakes is considerable: the students win every one in four cases.

The news made quite an impact, as illustrated by Education Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf’s response. He ordered the ceasing of the algorithms that were being used and demanded an independent investigation take place. The Dutch Data Protection Authority is also looking into the matter.

Tuition fees for refugees?

Only five out of the thirteen universities are lowering tuition fees for new refugee students from Ukraine in the coming academic year. The remaining institutions refuse to do so, reasoning that it would only be fair to support refugees from other crisis areas in the world in the same way, but that would not be feasible. They also think it’s too expensive.

Not all universities of applied sciences have given clarity, but those that are discontinuing the discount include Saxion and HAN University of Applied Sciences. Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences is sticking with the lower fees, reasoning that nothing has changed since the war is not over yet.

Differences of opinion about migration led to the fall of the Cabinet. Tuition fees for refugees were apparently also a sensitive issue within the coalition. Minister Dijkgraaf previously wrote that low tuition fees could be a ‘pull factor’ for refugees. But it was obvious that the issue didn’t sit well with him from his petition to the institutions to offer a discount after all.

Low-stimulus room in introduction weeks...

Some introduction weeks at higher education institutions have already started, while others take place next week. They can be overwhelming to students with mental health issues and there’s always the possibility of inappropriate behaviour occurring.

It would appear more attention is being paid to these matters this year. For example, in Groningen you can enter a ‘non-stimulus room’ and put on headphones that reduce environmental noises. There’s also a stronger focus on social safety: in Utrecht a code of conduct has been drafted that every participant has to subscribe to.

… as well as condoms (hopefully)

If things do get particularly stimulating, make sure to practice safe sex. Gonorrhoea and chlamydia are increasingly common amongst young people and this can only be changed by using condoms. The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and the Municipal Health Services are handing out preservatives during introduction weeks and festivals.

This has not happened yet...

The upcoming elections require all parties to put together an election programme very quickly, which means they are also formulating their vision of higher education and research. This summer should see the long-awaited publication of a ‘foresight study’ by a number of research agencies, but it’s not here yet.

... so the universities have taken pre-emptive action...

The universities have proactively drafted their own report on nine ‘megatrends’ threatening to disrupt higher education, such as digitisation and changes to the intake of students. They believe the system’s funding is in need of revision. In an interview with U-Today, the independent journalistic medium at the University of Twente, the commission project leader said that there was ‘lots of energy for our recommendations to go reasonably far’.

The universities would prefer to downsize a bit. In the opinion of Elmer Sterken, former rector of the University of Groningen and chair of the committee responsible for the report, about fifteen percent of research university students actually belong at a university of applied sciences. ‘Studying at a research university is ultimately intended for those who are intrinsically interested in academia’, he said to Trouw newspaper.

... and so have universities of applied sciences

In an ‘election manifest’ of a few pages, the universities of applied sciences also explain where they would like things to go, of course hoping this will serve as an inspiration to political parties.

These institutions would like to be able to offer more retraining and refresher courses, as well as carry out more practice-based research. In addition, education at this level should be continued to be offered even in sparsely populated regions. The price tag: over 400 million euros per year.

Paul succeeds Minister Wiersma

Member of the House of Representatives Mariëlle Paul (VVD) is the outgoing minister for Primary and Secondary Education. She was sworn in on Friday 21 July, thus replacing Dennis Wiersma, who stepped down in June following new complaints about his behaviour.

One of Paul’s (1966) positions in the House of Representatives was spokesperson for primary and secondary education. In February, her call for piloting a four-year practical primary school teacher training programme received broad parliamentary support. This would not only enable students to work and learn at the same time, but also provide a direct solution to the teacher shortage. Minister Dijkgraaf was open to running this pilot, but the primary school teacher training institutes were sceptical.

To know whether she can make any progress in this respect, Paul will have to wait until September, when the House of Representatives will decide which files are too controversial to continue before a new Cabinet is sworn in.

Fines for private education institutions

Minister Dijkgraaf imposed 483 thousand euros worth of fines on the NCOI and twelve other private education institutions belonging to the Salta Group, he writes. The decision took a long time coming and the fines could have been a lot higher.

The NCOI has received the largest fine, over 182 thousand euros, because it incorrectly called itself a university for nine months and gave out 435 Master’s diplomas for programmes that had not been approved by the Dutch-Flemish accreditation association NVAO. According to the minister, in so doing the NCOI made ‘a considerable financial profit’. As the NCOI failed to revise its information provision to students after having been warned repeatedly, the fine was increased by an additional 25 thousand euros.

The decision was based on an investigation by the Inspectorate of Education. Other members of the Salta Group, including LOI Hogeschool, NTI Hogeschool, Hogeschool TIO and Hogeschool Markus Verbeek Praehep, received fines of 25 thousand euros. They also provided misleading information. The Salta Group objects to the fines on general principle and will take the matter to court.

Beer banned from academia...

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) no longer wishes to be involved in the biannual Heineken Prizes for arts and sciences, because of Heineken’s activities in Russia. The company launched dozens of new beverages there during wartime, while other companies were leaving the country. The academic awards will not be discontinued.

... and PhD candidates remunerated as students still in uncertainty...

Many PhD candidates in Groningen didn’t receive salaries, but student grants. As they thought this was unfair, a group of medical PhD candidates filed a lawsuit. Last spring, they won the appeal. The procedure isn’t over yet, because the University Medical Center Groningen is lodging a cassation appeal.

An ‘experiment’ with PhD candidates remunerated as students was being conducted. Minister Dijkgraaf, however, sees no added value in this system and will not be giving it an official place in the Higher Education and Research Act.

... but champaign for 188 young researchers

The Dutch Research Council (NWO) has awarded Veni grants of up to 280 thousand euros to 188 researchers who recently completed a PhD. A whopping 1,462 applications had been submitted, so only 13 percent have been granted funding.

With 18 approved applications, the University of Amsterdam tops the list. It is closely followed by Delft University of Technology, which has done remarkably well with 17 approved applications. Four University of Twente researchers received a Veni grant.

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