Funds flows in higher professional education in 2010
Picture at three higher professional education colleges
The Court of Audit has mapped out the income and expenditure of the 37 higher professional education colleges in the Netherlands in 2010. We worked out the overall picture, especially regarding overhead costs, for three colleges and found that they used very different systems to account for their income and expenditure. It is therefore difficult to determine what percentage they spend on overheads.
Our audit classified the three colleges' expenditure as 'direct costs' (about 52%, including staff costs incurred for education and research activities) and 'indirect costs' (about 10%, including governance, management and secretarial support). We could not include some costs (about 10%) in either of these categories with certainty. Miscellaneous non-staff costs (about 28%), such as building expenses, are attributable to both direct and indirect processes.
Uniformity of the accounting systems and public accountability is a precondition for greater insight into the use of public funds by higher professional education colleges. The discussion of overhead costs would also be clarified if there were an unambiguous definition of the term overhead. The State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science must determine whether such a definition is required, what it should be and how it should be applied in the costing and reporting requirements for higher professional education colleges. We would point out that the quality of education cannot be measured by financial variables, such as overheads.
In his response to our audit, the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science wrote that he would consult the colleges himself to determine how transparency and uniformity could be increased. He thought guidelines on the colleges' financial reporting had already been issued and that they had been prepared so that the colleges would provide sufficient information on their financial position and use of funds.