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Flanders: Protests over change in higher education funding

The Flemish government is planning to introduce a new system of funding for higher education. If adopted, the new system would distribute funds on an output-based rationale. Indicators would be, amongst others, the number of credits awarded and the number of degrees delivered. There would be extra incentives for cooperation between institutions over joint courses and degrees.

On 16th March, Flemish students and union representatives took to the streets in protest. They fear that the new formula will tempt institutions to lower quality standards, in order to be able to receive better funding. They demanded an increase in the overall funding envelope for higher education, a ban on the increase of tuition fees and separate budgets for repeating students. The students are threatening with further action, should the plans not be reviewed. Education minister Vandenbroucke indicated he is prepared for dialogue. The main idea of the reform, according to him, is to give institutions more responsibility for their students and to make them provide better guidance for underperforming students, in the form of more tutoring and extra language courses, for example.