Relationship between universities and politicians at rock bottom: Leiden rector

Part of the university. Photo: Vysotsky via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Vysotsky via Wikimedia Commons

The relationship between Dutch universities and the government has hit rock-bottom because of disputes over money, Leiden University rector Carel Stolker has told the Financieele Dagblad in an interview.

‘We’ve lost sight of each other,’ Stolker said in the interview, published to coincide with the start of the new academic year. ‘As dean and as rector I have never experienced a worse relationship between higher education and politicians as I do now, while the economy is at its height,’ he said.

The biggest issue is the government’s decision to change the way funding is allocated to favour technical and science subjects and meet the demand for more science graduates.

This means less money for the arts and for medicine from 2022 and the issue is driving a wedge between individual university departments and universities themselves, Stolker said.

At the same time, university staff have been complaining about the high pressure they face at work for years, but do not feel they are being listened to, or taken seriously, Stolker said.

Education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven told the FD in a reaction that she is aware that the way universities are funded is due a major overhaul.

The minister has commissioned a report into the current situation and the options – such as increasing the fixed funding universities are given to reduce the reliance on student numbers – will be looked at once the report has been concluded, she said.

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