What are the party platforms for academia?

Yes to basic grant, no to basic grant

Elections are going down this week, so what are the parties’ plans when it comes to students, universities, and scientific research? The UK dove into the party programmes to see what they have in store for college kids in the Netherlands.
By Maaike Vos and Traci White / 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, and that research should be easily accessible for folks outside the university, too. And the more English-taught courses and more online courses, the merrier.

The VVD is also in favour of businesses showering university researchers with money: they want a big piece of the budgetary pie to encourage businesses to make private investments.


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.‘ In particular, the party says they will keep an eye on the effects that the loan system has on kids from lower income households and whether it is leading to fewer students moving on from vocational school to applied sciences universities.

The PvdA also makes a point of calling for a cap on tuition fees, as well as ending the practice of certain programmes charging higher fees within the same institution. But 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, but the jobs of the researchers who write those articles should not be so closely linked with how many grants they score – or how many journal titles they can add to their resume.

Bonus: the PvdA is cool with more English, but also 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. Although the party declared in their preliminary platform last fall that the public transportation card would be replaced by ‘a subsidy for travel costs’, the official election document calls for the card to remain as it is.

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. They would also be in favour of programmes being just a little less picky when it comes to admissions: less selection ‘at the gate’ is a part of their official platform.

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 forms of digital innovation. 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, similar to the VVD, D66 also wants universities to cash in more by creating licensing agreements for the profits from medical breakthroughs made on campus to flow back to the university (somehow). More attention should be paid to instructors’ educational abilities, which includes making sure that PhD candidates and temporary teachers are given the time and resources to hone their skills. Oh, and the party says ‘hard pass’ to the PhD scholarship experiment altogether.


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 remain in effect, albeit with one less year of eligibility (to be specific, an extra year on top of the minimum duration of your studies will be scrapped).

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. Perhaps the biggest gesture to improving access for all is increasing the availability of a supplemental grant for students from economically underprivileged families and with special needs.

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 legally limited 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. Honorary chair positions funded by businesses, social organisations and foundations will also receive extra scrutiny if PvdD has any say in the matter.


(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:


This is an updated version of an article that was originally published on 15 November, 2016.

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
  • Hooray for online education
  • Public transportation card stays
  • Research results and societal impact mean more funding
  • More business, research collaboration
  • Free access to scientific papers

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
    • Cap tuition fees
    • Flexibility for students to combine studies with caregiving, parenthood, board membership or other exceptional activities
    • In favour of English-taught programmes

SP (15 seats)

  • Return of the basic grant and supplementary grant for students from low income families
  • 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
  • Less management bureaucracy

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
  • End the PhD scholarship experiment
  • No numerus fixus for programmes with good job prospect

PVV (12 seats)

  • Less management bureaucracy
  • No mergers between applied sciences and research universities
  • Uphold financial aid for bachelor studies
  • Gradually do away with numerus fixus

ChristenUnie (5 seats)

  • Return of basic grant, supplemental grant for students from low income families
  • Keep public transportation 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
  • Increase availability of supplemental grant to underprivileged students, students with special needs
  • Raise age limit for student loan eligibility from 30 to 40
  • Only apply selective admissions for conservatory and medical programmes
  • Cut tuition fees in half and cap them, statutory fees for second studies
  • End bsa and hard division between bachelor and master

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 long term funding for (fundamental) research, scientific publications accessible to everyone
  • Public record of researchers’ extracurricular activities
  • Strict rules for independence of honorary chair

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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