The Maastricht Executive Board is disappointed and agrees with the words of VSNU chairman Pieter Duisenberg, who finds it “damaging and difficult to understand to announce extra cutbacks in higher education at this very moment”. The amount could run to €226 million, because the increase of the interest on student loans was abolished. Former students with an average loan of 21 thousand euro and an above-average income would have to pay off an additional twelve euro interest a month. But education minister Van Engelshoven withdrew the bill in June when it became clear that it was going to be rejected by the Upper Chamber.
Student Union LSVb and the Interstedelijk Studenten Overleg feel that the cabinet is playing “hide and seek with students” by shuffling with the €226 million budget entry.
The spark of hope of investments that the Minister of Education recently gave at the opening of the academic year in Leiden, has evaporated. She said then: “You understand that I cannot speak in advance of the King’s speech, and you must certainly not believe everything you read in the newspapers, but I can assure you that the cabinet knows full well how crucial science and innovation are for our future.” She was probably alluding to the plans that have been presented for an investment fund aimed at knowledge development. The details of this plan, however, are still uncertain.
There were alarmed reactions in the media. The two unions AOb and FNV are “unbelievably deeply disappointed” and according to LSVb, higher education is “in dire need” of investments, but the cabinet has left “the sector out in the cold”.
In a reaction, the Maastricht Executive Board spoke of “an impediment to its budget” in its efforts to “optimally fulfil the social role for the region and beyond with education, research and valorisation”. The Board was referring to initiatives such as the Brightlands campuses in Limburg.