The five Flemish universities turned a joint loss for the first time in 2022.(1) The Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) was also hit hard by rising costs (energy bills, wage costs and building costs) and cuts from the Flemish government. The VLIR (Flemish Interuniversity Council) raised the alarm and pointed to structural underfunding of higher education from Flanders.(2) Due to successive measures and savings from the Flemish Government since 2008, 350 million euros less was received in 2022.(3)

Although the index provision system was introduced in 2023, cushioning the impact of the pivot index for staff costs, and 59 million euros were now also promised for 2024 to settle the more expensive operating costs of recent years, this does not fully compensate because part comes together with additional assignments.(4) So the Flemish Government's contribution is unfortunately a drop in the ocean.

In his September statement, Flemish minister-president Jan Jambon announced that the Flemish Government is giving 280,600 euros in extra funding to the VUB to ease the pressure on student facilities, 1 million will also be allocated for the construction of additional kots in Brussels through Brik vzw, with the aim of helping students find affordable kots.(5) Indeed, there is a shortage of more than 10,000 rooms in Brussels.(6) We obviously appreciate these additional financial resources, but they are insufficient to meet the increased needs of students.

Because of the systematic lack of resources, universities have to make savings and postpone necessary renovations and investments in teaching and research infrastructure. There are not enough staff to adequately guide the growing number of students in their studies. This affects the quality of research and teaching. And therefore also on the development opportunities of students and their future. At the same time, students foot the bill via rising tuition fees and increasingly expensive student facilities (study materials, restaurant meals, accommodation, etc.). Thus, a lot of students drop out for financial reasons. The 15/12/2022 VVS report confirms and emphasizes the urgency of the situation.(7)

"As students, we are paying more and more for less and less," says Diewert Seynaeve, president of the VUB Student Council. "A mortgaged future is a price we refuse to pay, however. We have a right to quality and affordable education.(8) The passionate staff who keep our higher education running at world-class levels every day must be given the breathing space they need to continue to do so. Especially in a world where knowledge is coming under pressure. Extra funding in the knowledge economy that keeps Flanders strong is not a nice extra, but a lifeline for the future of this and future generations.

Accessible and democratic higher education is the society's investment in its future. As the Student Council of the VUB, we join the different actors in raising the issue of the underfunding of our education. We explicitly ask the Flemish Government not only to meet their decretal obligations, but also to make higher education a priority: stop the cuts, invest in our future.

Student Council Vrije Universiteit Brussel

1 Artikel De Tijd 06/09/2023…

2 Artikel de TIjd 06/09/2023…

3 Artikel De Standaard 25/09/2023

4 Artikel Veto 25/09/2023…

5 Cfr Persmededeling Ben Weyts 22/09/23

6 Artikel Bruzz 25/09/2023…

7 Standpunt VVS 15/12/2022

8 Artikel VRT NWS 15/12/2022….