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Netherlands: New strategic agenda for higher education

Focusing heavily on a series of cost-cutting measures to expedite and increase student completion rates, the Dutch central government (Rijksoverheid) released on 1 July its strategic agenda titled Kwaliteit in verscheidenheid (Quality in diversity). The goal is to usher the Netherlands to the international forefront of higher education, research and science, and to push these sectors in a more competitive, high profile and financially austere direction. By doing so, the Dutch government hopes to position the country as one of the five most competitive economies in the world by 2025.

Some of the major changes to the Dutch higher education system include the

  • penalisation of undergraduate and master students in public universities who continue their studies past the normal allotted time (i.e. more than four years for undergraduates and more than two years for master students);
  • compulsory student attendance at lectures and examinations in order to expedite graduation;
  • introduction of honours programmes, to promote the global profile of Dutch institutions and
  • implementation of student advising prior to enrolment (currently students are largely free to enter the programme of their choice), in order to encourage higher student completion rates. 

The Dutch government estimates the savings from these measures to total EUR 310 million by 2015. Implementation of these changes will go into effect in 2012.

Dutch Central Government – Quality in diversity (in Dutch)