What are the party platforms for academia?

Yes to basic grant, no to basic grant

Elections next March may seem far off, but in the political arena in The Hague, the battle is already underway. What are the parties’ plans when it comes to students, universities, and scientific research? The UK dove into the preliminary election programmes to fish out all the best bits.

By Maaike Vos / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen / Animation by René Lapoutre


Party for Freedom and Democracy (40 seats)

The VVD never even mentions the basic grant. This makes sense, because it was the liberals who killed the basic grant (with a little help from some friends). Luckily, the money that has become available will be invested in higher education.

Are you studying one of those hopeless programmes with ‘media’ or ‘culture’ in the title? No worries: the liberals will help you out with a mandatory informational leaflet and some honest information about the programmes’ career perspectives.

Programmes that do not perform adequately will be cut off by the VVD. Furthermore, they will only make it possible for students to register for some of the courses in a programme. This leaves room to either serve on a board or create a start-up company or two. If you sacrifice a year of to devote yourself full-time to ‘extracurricular activities that benefit the institution’, you will not have to pay any tuition.

The liberals also feel that scientists spend too much time doing all kinds of administrative work. So the VVD wants to fund research for longer periods of time so as to ensure that researchers spend less time writing research proposals and more time actually doing research.


Labour Party (35 seats)

The social democrats (who stand to lose three-quarters of their seats in the polls) are ambitious: they want the Netherlands to have the most well-educated workforce in the world in no more than ten (!) years. That takes a lot of money. And if it is up to the PvdA, they will have that money. They will invest billions – up to 10 billion euros a year – over a period of fifteen years.

And that money could go to the basic grant. See for yourself: ‘We want to monitor the effects of the study advance and adjust it where necessary.‘ How they want to do this exactly is something that Samsom/Asscher/Monasch are still working on.

Other than that, it’s business as usual: more say for students and teachers, less results-oriented thinking, more money for science, less pressure to publish and the empty phrase ‘more customisation’ for students who sit on a board for a year or have to take care of a family member. But what that means in reality (flexible studying? an adjustment in tuition?) remains unclear.

The party is also threatening to instate a quota of 30 per cent ‘if the amount of female professor does not increase soon’. Scientific articles as a result of public financing should be accessible to everyone.

Bonus: the PvdA wants to keep small programmes such as Frisian Languages and Cultures. Oant sjen!


Socialist Party (15 seats)

Great, the SP wants to reinstate the basic grant. Students with parents of humble means will get a larger additional grant. More say at the university will also be reinforced if the SP returns to power.

The socialists are pleading for ‘smaller institutes with a subservient school board’, where students and teachers have a bigger say in matters. What this will look like in reality is not yet known (born leaders reach for infinity in Ootmarsum?).

Board of Directors, pay close attention: the SP wants the University Council to have the ability to fire failing managers in cases of mismanagement.

Selective admissions are also done. As far as scientific staff at the RUG is concerned: the SP would like to offer them more permanent positions, as well as a research fund. Within that fund, companies can offer up assignments without a direct connection between company and researcher. That would effectively put an end to the concept of the Coca-Cola university.


Christian Democratic Appeal (13 seats)

The CDA feels it is ‘un-Dutch’ that attending university has become more difficult with the implementation of the loans system. That is why the Christian Democrats want the basic grant back. However, the OV chip card would disappear and be replaced by ‘a subsidy for travel costs’.

University personnel are kept happy with a lighter bureaucratic load. This means that the money intended for research can actually be used for research. Concerning salary and promotions, how well teachers actually teach should be assessed. The CDA also argues that small programmes should be retained.

That’s nice. So that means we get to keep Finno-Ugric Languages and Cultu. . . oh, wait.


Democrats ‘66 (12 seats)

The self-appointed educational party D66 was partially responsible for the end of the basic grant. But the Democrats would prefer to describe it as follows: ‘D66 has ensured that more money will be invested in higher education in the coming years.’

The fact that students lacking a basic grant will think twice before taking a year off for board work or studying abroad was an unintentional side effect. And so the party, which recently celebrated its 50th birthday, argues for flexible and tuition-free studying.

The social liberals also want to instate a statutory tuition fee for second degree programmes and ‘a limited tuition fee for late bloomers’. And students and participation councils should be granted more influence that actually works.

The party does not care about people who are afraid that the Dutch language will disappear from universities: D66 wants even more English-language education. This will allow universities to attract more foreign students and teachers.

D66 ticks more of the RUG’s boxes: the party also wants more MOOCs and other digital innovations. Pechtold and his ilk also argue for a lighter administrative load for researchers. Scientific publications funded with public money should be accessible to everyone. And more attention should be paid to teachers’ education performance.


Party for Freedom (12 seats)

When it comes to the PVV, we can be brief. Wilder’s programme (a single page) only mentions Islamic schools. As is expected, he wants them all to close.


Christian Union (5 seats)

The Christian Union is playing Santa Claus and wants to bring the basic grant back, thereby ensuring that ‘students who do not have rich parents’ can also find their way to university. And the OV chip card will stay as it is.

Furthermore, the CU wants to implement a kind of social conscription for people between the ages of 18 and 28. They can pay back part of their student debt by cleaning bums in a retirement home or raking leaves in the park for six months.

They will also put a stop to the ever-increasing tuition fees. And good news for eggheads: tuition fees for a second degree programme will be legally bound to a certain maximum.

The Christian Union also wants to protect the humanities and small language programmes. Personnel can also rejoice, because the party will spend extra money on education and innovation – unless people want to teach wearing burqas, that is: clothing that covers the face is not allowed.

The party wants fewer massive programmes, more international top researchers and more financing for higher education to be spent on research. Finally, more attention should be paid to ‘science and technology’ and entrepreneurship. Each university should have an entrepreneurship centre and teachers should gain some business experience.


GreenLeft (4 seats)

GroenLinks’ magic word is accessibility. The party will get rid of the bachelor-before-master rule and thinks that selective admissions should only be applied to a handful of programmes. Another perk: it will be easier for students to take courses at other universities.

Students, teachers, and university councils should have more say in the course their universities choose. The participation councils will get the right of consent in appointing managers and the abolition or merging of programmes.

This will put education and research back on top, rather than ‘financial adventures’. The university as a factory churning out diplomas would also be a thing of the past.

According to GroenLinks, fundamental research should not be dependent on money from the business world. If it is left up to GL president Jesse ‘Obama’ Klaver, researchers will feel less pressure to publish and their scientific publications will become freely available. GroenLinks, too, wants a legal tuition fee for second degree programmes, and less bureaucracy and more permanent contracts for researchers. Small, specialty programmes ‘shall be fostered as much as possible’.


Animal Party (2 seats)

The animal lovers are joining the long list of parties who want the basic grant back. The OV chip card will also remain, and tuition is lowered quite a bit.

We will have to say goodbye to animal testing, such as dissections. Students are allowed to refuse to participate in these classes and they will automatically be taught about alternatives to these animal tests.

The PvdD will also introduce flexible studying: if you do board work for a year or sit on the University Council, you will pay less tuition. That same University Council will have more influence and managers will be elected rather than appointed by the minister.

The animal party wants more money for scientific research and free scientific articles for everyone, provided they were funded with public money. There will be stricter rules concerning chairs financed by large companies. And finally – this will probably scare a few professors – Marianne Thieme wants to instate a public record of the extracurricular activities of all researchers both within and without universities.


(1 seat)

Does 50PLUS have an opinion about people under 50? Sure they do! Henk Krol’s senior citizens’ party is opposed to the social loans system and wants higher education to be available to anyone. The party takes this quite literally: higher education for senior citizens should become a basic right.

FiftyPlus is not a fan of English at the university: classes should be taught in DUTCH. One interesting detail: 50PLUS’ website has a top 15 list of the party’s biggest points. At number eight: bathrooms in every train.  Students would not mind that, either.

Here are the party platforms at a glance:

Hieronder: Partijen puntsgewijs in een toggle module

VVD (40 seats)

  • No basic grant
  • Jobs (due to informational leaflets and honest information)
  • No money for poorly performing programmes
  • Part-time studying to allow time for board work or creating a startup
  • No tuition fees if you’re on the University Council
  • Less administration for researchers through sustained research funding

PvdA (35 seats)

    • Investment of billions – up to 10 billion euros a year – over a period of 15 years
    • Loans system will be monitored and adjusted ‘where necessary’
    • More say in issues impacting students and teachers, less results-oriented thinking
    • More money for research, less pressure to publish
    • Scientific publications accessible to everyone
    • Quota for female professors if things don’t change soon
    • Keep small programmes

SP (15 seats)

  • Return of the basic grant
  • More say on matters
  • Smaller educational institutes
  • University councils have power to fire failing managers
  • No selective admissions
  • More permanent positions for researchers
  • Research fund without direct connection between companies and scientists

CDA (13 seats)

  • Return of the basic grant
  • OV chip card is replaced by ‘subsidy for travel costs’
  • A lightened bureaucratic load for research staff
  • Larger role for educational qualities of teachers
  • Keep small programmes

D66 (12 seats)

  • Flexible, tuition-free studying
  • Statutory tuition fees for second degree programmes, limited tuition fees for late bloomers
  • More influence for students and participation councils
  • More English-language education
  • More digital innovation such as MOOCs
  • Fewer administrative burdens for scientists
  • Scientific publications accessible to everyone

PVV (12 seats)

  • Lol nee

ChristenUnie (5 seats)

  • Return of basic grant, keep OV chip card
  • Social conscription to pay back part of student debt
  • Stop increasing tuition fees, statutory tuitions fees for second degree programmes
  • Protect humanities and small programmes, fewer massive programmes
  • Extra money for education and innovation
  • Attract more international top researchers
  • Entrepreneurship centre at every university, teachers gain experience in the business world

GroenLinks (4 seats)

  • Make taking courses at other universities easier
  • More say for students, teachers, and university councils
  • University councils should have right to consent in appointing managers
  • Fundamental research should not depend on business world’s money
  • Less pressure to publish, scientific publications accessible to everyone
  • More permanent positions for scientists, less bureaucracy
  • Fostering small programmes

PvdD (2 zetels)

  • Return of basic grant, keep OV chip card
  • Tuition fees will be lowered
  • No more animal testing at universities
  • Flexible studying: lower tuition fees during board work year
  • More influence for university councils
  • More funding for research, scientific publications accessible to everyone
  • Public record of researchers’ extracurricular activities

50PLUS (1 seats)

  • Return of the basic grant
  • Higher education accessible to senior citizens
  • Dutch as teaching language at universities
  • Bathrooms in every train


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