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The Netherlands: future budget cuts and new education minister

The Netherlands’ new coalition cabinet has announced a series of budget cuts for the coming years. The cuts for the Education Ministry will amount to 4.8% in 2016 (EUR 24 million), 10.9% in 2017 (EUR 54 million) and 13.3% in 2018 (EUR 76 million). The proposed cuts still have to go through the Dutch Parliament, but plans are as follows: from September 2014 undergraduate scholarships will be turned into loans for new students; the very popular free public transport pass for students will be scrapped in 2015; tougher standards for teachers, and more practical teaching measures will be imposed; free school books will be scrapped; and in addition, the number of higher education degree courses provided by Dutch institutions will have to be reduced.

In charge of implementing these (already rather unpopular) changes is Mariëtte (Jet) Bussemaker, the new Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science. Ms Bussemaker was proposed the education portfolio on 1 November, and immediately accepted the task. She began her career at the University of Amsterdam in 1985 as a research assistant and she holds a doctorate in social sciences. After working at the ministry of social affairs and employment, she subsequently became a member of the Dutch Parliament (in 1998) and then State Secretary for Health (in 2007). After serving as State Secretary, Ms Bussemaker worked for a short time as an independent consultant. On March 2011 she joined the Executive Board of the University of Amsterdam and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.

The announced higher education changes have already generated some stark reactions from the part of Dutch students and their representative organisations, such as the National Union of Students. Fears are, amongst others, that fewer students will be able to go to university because of these cuts. Nevertheless, the students are not yet planning protests, hoping that the Parliament will be more receptive to their concerns.

Budget cuts Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science