Investing in the quality of education: Tilburg University’s quality agreements

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The current generation of students often has to deal with it: a student loan that increases monthly. In 2015, the basic scholarship was abolished and exchanged for the new loan system. At that time, the government promised that the money released would be put into the quality of higher education. The total investment amount, approximately 1 billion euros, would be spread over several years. What we are now seeing is that the generation of students of the new scheme between 2015 and 2017 in particular, will be the victims and will hardly benefit from the investments. The total amount invested in this period was 280 million euros, a fraction of the 1 billion euros promised by the then Minister Bussemaker. In this article, the editors of Faces Online elaborate on the question: where has the money from the abolition of the basic scholarship gone? And what are the investment plans of our university?

Where has the money gone after the abolition of the basic scholarship?

Since 2018, colleges and universities receive money directly from the ministry to invest in the quality of education: the so-called studievoorschotmiddelen”. This amount is linked to the number of students. The higher the number of students, the higher the amount allocated to the university or university of applied sciences in question. In 2018, the amount for universities of applied sciences was 114 million euros; for universities, it was 69 million euros. In 2019, the ministry disbursed 119 million euros to universities of applied sciences. For universities, this amount was increased to 72 million euros. This increase is largely explained by the increased number of students applying in 2019 compared to 2018.

To see this from a better perspective, it is good to calculate this amount per student. The student who had to hand in his or her basic scholarship will indirectly receive about 30 euros per month ‘back’ as investment money. The educational institutions have to work out the plans for these investments in university-specific quality agreements’. Often these quality agreements are not explicit, but they give a global overview of the actual investments. According to the educational institutions, the amount allocated to improve education is mainly spent on more intensive and small-scale education. An increase and improvement of the guidance of students are central to this. In addition, educational differentiation is another important issue for many educational institutions. Think of the development of new subjects or a new way of teaching. As a result of COVID-19, it will not yet be possible to make investments concerning more intensive and better education. However, COVID-19 does offer opportunities to focus on the development of online teaching, which will become increasingly important in the future.

Tilburg University’s investment plans: the quality plan.

Tilburg University is one of the universities that claim the “studievoorschotmiddelen”, but this did not happen by itself. In order to lay claim to this amount, a fully elaborated plan had to be submitted to the government. The plans of our university were rejected by Minister Van

Engelshoven in December 2019, more than four years after the abolition of the basic grant. Last September, Tilburg University as one of the last universities in the Netherlands managed to get a positive advice from The Hague, but what exactly are these plans of the university? We, Faces Online, figured it out.

The Minister of Education, Culture and Science decided in the Sector Agreement of 2018 that universities can invest in six themes with the study advance funds. Namely; more intensive and small-scale education, more and better guidance for students, study success of students, educational differentiation, appropriate and good educational facilities, and further professionalization of teachers. Tilburg University focuses on all six themes for educational quality because these themes are in line with the ambitions of its strategic plan.

“To start with, TiSEM will appoint extra teachers every year. Almost 6.3 million euros has been earmarked for this purpose.”

Tilburg University has chosen to decentralize all ”studievoorschotmiddelen”. This means that the amounts are allocated to the five faculties through the internal funding model. We think it would be a good idea to zoom in on the plans of the faculty in which we as editors of Faces Online are active: TiSEM, Tilburg School of Economics and Management.

To start with, TiSEM will appoint extra teachers every year. Almost 6.3 million euros has been earmarked for this purpose. To improve the guidance of students, the faculty also invests in the training of student mentors, a professional trainer will be hired to guide them. Becoming a TOP parent will require more and more responsibilities. In addition, the faculty will invest in better guidance for international students. Through workshops, all students will get intercultural skills classes and TiSEM will focus on improving thesis guidance.

With the quality agreements, TiSEM also invests in better career guidance, part of the pre-masters will be digitized and the PASS program will be extended to second and third-year bachelor students. Another experience is that almost half a million will be recruited for exam experts, they will coach teachers in the field of exam quality.

This is only a part of the plans of TiSEM, there are a lot of other plans ready which can be found on the website of NOSop3. Also, the other faculties of our university are working hard on the road to better education.


Unfortunately, the generation of students of recent years will not notice much of all these plans of the university and will mainly suffer from their study debt. Nevertheless, we see great plans on the table at the different faculties and we hope that eventually, all students will be able to benefit from them. The amounts will relate to the period from 2019 to 2024, after that we will evaluate the effect of abolishing the basic scholarship and the allocation of advance funds.