Outsiders pay for 25% of professors

Dutch universities must set up a public register listing any outside jobs held by their professors, education minister Ronald Plasterk says in the Volkskrant on Monday.

His comments follow the paper’s revelation that almost 25% of the country’s 5,481 university professors are directly or indirectly paid for by outside sources.
Private sponsorship and having other jobs are not problems in themselves as long as there is clarity, Plasterk said.
Top of the Volkskrant’s list is Wageningen university (which specialises in agriculture and the food industry) where 36% of professors are paid for by outsiders.
Twente (35%) and Rotterdam (32%) also have a high percentage of sponsored professors, the paper said.
Rabobank and chemicals company DSM top the sponsorship league, both funding 15 professorships.
Last year a visiting professor at Wageningen gave a widely-reported speech praising the ‘essential foodstuffs found in milk’. The professor in question, Toon van Hooijdonk, was not only funded by the Dutch dairy lobby organisation but is a director of dairy firm Campina, the Volkskrant said.
Most academic posts are financed by trusts which raise funds from companies, alumni and other sources, the paper said. But of those paid directly by external sources, 25% are funded by industry.
Healthcare providers and government bodies also fund a number of professorships.
The Dutch academy of arts and sciences KNAW wants new rules to prevent a conflict of interest. ‘The independence of academic research must be strengthened,’ said academy committee member Martijn Katan.
Sijbolt Noorda, chairman of the universities’ association VSNU, said he would not cooperate with the minister’s request for openness. ‘Universities must make their own judgement between privacy and detailing additional jobs,’ he said.

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