News - February 23, 2010

Plasterk's plans on shaky grounds

The plans of Minister Plasterk are on shaky grounds, now that the Dutch cabinet has been dissolved. New chances for a lobby are therefore in sight.

Initial response from the Dutch National Union of Students concerns the wasted efforts invested in talks with the Veerman commission which would advise on the higher education system. 'We wonder what would come out of that now.' Its chairman Gerard Oosterwijk also sees chances ahead. 'It's election time, a good moment for us to lobby for our interests.' The Comité SOS, which shares this view, has organized a protest week earlier this month against the scrapping of the basic student grant. 'We are big and we can therefore make our voices heard', says the Comité on its Facebook-page.
The Professional Higher Education Council hopes that new elections will take place as soon as possible so as to 'go ahead with building the knowledge society' which the council has in mind. The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) is unhappy. 'The political situation has been in a standstill for six months when it should have been going at full steam towards the economy of the future', says VSNU chairman Sijbolt Noorda. Investing in education and research is indispensable in this process; this cannot afford to stagnate, says Noorda.
More flavours
Plasterk had various plans for higher education. He had wanted to revamp the entire framework of higher education. Would there be more 'flavours' in the new system besides professional higher education and research-oriented education?  However, cold water has been thrown on this issue.  The VVD called it 'a solution in search of a problem'. Plasterk shouldn't have caused unrest, added the liberals. The CDA could not get Plasterk's drift either: 'He hasn't explained clearly what the bottleneck is', said CDA member of parliament Jacob van Dijk.
The accreditation of study courses could also come under a new legislation. Universities and universities of applied sciences would then be subjected to an aptitude test. This could be replaced by a milder test for each of the courses if the universities' facilities and quality control are up to a general standard.