Vouchers in Dutch Higher Education : from debate to experiment

Johan J. Vossensteyn

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As market-like mechanisms become more important in higher education, demand driven funding, and more specific vouchers, gain a lot of attention. As such, the advantages and disadvantages of vouchers have been discussed in a wide variety of settings. However, hardly any country has been prepared to introduce vouchers as a system wide mechanism for allocating the public means available for higher education. The Netherlands forms no exception to that. Also in the Netherlands, vouchers have been seriously considered as a means of funding higher education. Major stakeholders in the debate are the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Finance. Because they focus on an efficient spending of public means, they have a strong interest in matters as vouchers and student drawing rights, which are regarded as an effective way of allocating public funds to (higher) education. They argue that vouchers are the most appropriate way to let the money follow the preferences of students. It is expected that, as a result, higher education institutions and schools will attune their teaching services to the demands of students. This is opposite to the tradition where public funds were directed at the supply of teaching activities. In the Dutch discussions a voucher is defined as is a right for students to use a predetermined quantity of publicly funded education services. For students, vouchers represent the quantity of publicly funded educational services and for the education institutions vouchers form the basis for public funding (Werkgroep Vouchers, 1987). Plans to introduce a voucher-based funding system have been developed twice in the Netherlands. The first debate took place during the late 1980s and the second during the late 1990s. The latter resulted in an experiment that actually started in the beginning of 2001. From both discussions, it can be concluded that vouchers take an ambiguous position the Netherlands. On the one hand, many stakeholders are enthusiastic about the merits of a demand-led funding approach. However, on the other hand, the uncertain consequences for both the government and institutions make many to raise doubts about voucher-like funding schemes. In this paper both Dutch debates will be reflected on, focussing on the goals of the voucher-plans and the arguments of the different stakeholders.
Original languageUndefined
Publication statusPublished - 2001
EventFiBS-conference 2001: Demand-led education financing : new trends for nursery, school and higher education - Cologne, Germany
Duration: 28 May 200130 May 2001


ConferenceFiBS-conference 2001: Demand-led education financing : new trends for nursery, school and higher education
Other28-30 May 2001


  • IR-56084

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