Netherlands to privatize part-time studies

Nieuws | de redactie
28 februari 2012 | The Dutch Ministry of Education is considering plans to privatize part-time higher education studies in order to save €300 million per year. National stakeholders are shocked and warn of “devastating” consequences for Life Long Learning.

The Dutch government coalition is looking for ways to reducepublic debt through austerity measures and reforms of its publicservices. It has leaked that ministers consider privatizingpart-time higher education in order to save €300 million peryear.

Currently, students can follow part-time courses at publicuniversities and with private, commercial institutes. The publiclyfunded programs are subsidized by tax payers as tuition fees do notcover all costs.

A lion’s share of €250 million from these cuts will be borne byuniversities of applied sciences (UAS). According to data by theDutch UAS lobby HBO-Raad, they accommodate 60.000 part-timestudents. Universities have around 9,000 part-time students intheir academic courses.

Cuts to affect Life Long Learning

The idea to privatize part-time higher education was put forwardby the Dutch Council of Training and Learning (NRTO), an interestgroup representing all private education providers in theNetherlands. One year ago, NRTO published a report stating that “private institutions arein an excellent position to provide tailored education to part-timeworkers. By offering excellent Bachelor and Master programs, weplay an important role in fostering Life Long Learning.”

Higher education experts fear that it is exactly these effortsin Life Long Learning which will be undermined by privatizingpart-time studies. Thom de Graaf, Chairman of the HBO-Raad,commented that he found the government’s plans “devastating”.

Teaching and masters hard-hit

Data from Dutch HE indicate that it will be master students ofapplied sciences who will be especially hard-hit by the plans.Part-time courses are very popular among them as 9.502 out of atotal 12.262 (77%) opt for this study mode. Another group whichwill be affected is teachers. From the 60.000 students that studypart-time at UAS institutes 20.457 are following teachingprograms.

This is of great concern to the Dutch education sector. TheNetherlands is already facing a shortage of highly qualifiedteachers in many subjects due to a rapidly increasing aging of thepopulation and the educational workforce in particular. Thisshortage will worsen further within the next 5 to 10 years.Upgrading via part-time HE-courses was seen as a major instrumentto strengthen the teaching profession and the new government plansmight challenge these efforts.

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