Moving towards equality of opportunity in the MBO

Part 2: What do data and practice tell us?

By making concrete agreements on equal opportunities the Minister of Education, Culture and Science and the boards of intermediate vocational education institutions (MBO) can together improve students’ results. The additional €1.6 billion made available to these institutions in recent years – on top of their fixed budget – was intended to reduce discrimination and inequality of opportunity. In practice, however, this money has not helped to reduce student disadvantage.

Supplementary agreements are therefore needed to determine the minimum level of help that MBO students are entitled to. And also the results to be achieved by 2027, now that the minister has earmarked around €1 billion for this purpose. This is the recommendation made by the Netherlands Court of Audit on 14 February 2024 following an in-depth audit. Our report – Moving towards  equality of opportunity in the MBO: What do data and practice tell us? – was published and presented to parliament on 14 February 2024. 

We found no evidence that the minister’s current measures are helping to reduce inequality of opportunity in the MBO.

Many students confirmed they were satisfied with the MBO. The minister has improved students’ position and made it easier for them to access funding and student travel products. MBO institutions have also received extra funding for educational and training materials and to recruit staff to deal with backlogs. But although these measures are having some effect, the existing agreements and lack of information mean the extent of the benefits is unclear. And while extra funding has been allocated to boost equal opportunities over the next few years, the minister has not made it sufficiently clear what this is supposed to achieve.

The minister has made over €3.8 billion of funding available to improve the quality of vocational education and internships in 2023-2027. This is on top of the sector’s regular budget. Around €1 billion of this extra funding has been earmarked to boost equal opportunities. In recent years, MBO institutions’ boards have made various efforts to assist students with a migration background or a disability. However, the minister does not know the extent of the problems students face in this respect. And neither have specific priorities and objectives for the coming years been set. Instead, institutions are free to decide on their approach for themselves.

The Court of Audit report was presented to the House of Representatives on 14 February 2024, along with a closed briefing for the Standing Committee on Education, Culture and Science. The appendices in the report include one containing several examples of typical MBO students, constructed on the basis of hundreds of interviews. Another appendix provides information on data from DUO (the organisation implementing education regulations) analysed as part of the audit.

Our initial publication on this subject was presented to parliament on 12 September 2023. The publication presented on 14 February 2024 represents the full audit.

Any feedback on this investigation

We welcome any feedback on our investigations. What do you think of this report? If you have any questions or want any further information, please e-mail us at You can be sure that we will read all e-mails carefully.