Five universities of applied sciences in the Netherlands will receive an advance from the ministry this year to cope with shrinking student numbers. HZ is one of these colleges. The financial boost is intended, among other things, to maintain important courses in the region and keep higher education accessible in Zeeland.

Application submitted
The official allocation of the funds has yet to follow. Any university of applied sciences can apply for it; HZ has already done so. The applications are assessed by a committee and discussed by the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences. The minister then evaluates the recommendations. Within now and a few weeks, the allocation for HZ will be known.

Financial impulse
Besides HZ, Saxion University of Applied Sciences, Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen, Zuyd University of Applied Sciences and Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences will also receive extra money for now. The consequences of shrinkage are currently most noticeable at these universities of applied sciences. Together - divided in proportion to student numbers - they will receive the first 15 million euro as a financial impulse in 2022.

Maintaining a broad offer
In June, Minister Dijkgraaf announced that universities of applied sciences will receive 90 million euros in the coming years - from 2022 to 2025 - to tackle shrinkage problems. Minister Dijkgraaf wrote in the letter that it is crucial that the regions concerned continue to have a sufficiently broad range of study programmes, "including study programmes serving shortage sectors or a specific regional labour demand". This is also important in the context of accessibility to higher education for students.

This is a bridging measure for short-term bottlenecks, stresses Dijkgraaf, 'to prevent institutions from taking irreversible steps, such as discontinuing study programmes or limiting fields of study that are of strategic importance for the region'.

Long term
For the long term, another solution is needed, the minister indicates. The minister is working on a foresight study. By the end of 2023, he will share his vision of a future-proof system of higher education and science. There may be additional changes in laws and regulations and/or funding system in due course.

Meanwhile, the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences is working on a sustainable plan to 'vitalise and maintain' programmes that are crucial for shrinkage regions. This is a precondition for the commitment of the 90 million euros.