Universities threaten court action over proposed cuts

New minister Eppo Bruins faces legal threat Photo: Martijn Beekman, Rijksoverheid

The umbrella organisation Universities of the Netherlands (UNL) on Tuesday sent a letter to new minister of education Eppo Bruins threatening legal action if the just sworn-in cabinet goes ahead with proposed cuts to scientific education and research.

The letter was signed by the boards of all 14 Dutch universities, who say 5,000 jobs in the sector are at risk, including an immediate threat to 1,200 scientists.

Much of the conflict centres around a 2022 administrative agreement signed by higher education institutions and the state that pledged €650 million annually to universities.

But, according to the FD, the new cabinet has said that the agreement “will be adjusted” and that the “intensification in sector plans will be reversed.”

The UNL calls that unreliable governance, saying universities have already incurred expenses based on the money that was promised to them. They say the cutbacks will affect the availability of talent, earnings and the Netherlands’ top position internationally in the sector.

The Netherlands has committed to a European agreement to invest 3% of GDP in research and innovation, but the UNL says the planned cuts could affect that pledge, putting the Dutch at a disadvantage compared to other countries that continue to invest in knowledge.

“The quality and accessibility of scientific education and research therefore come directly into the danger zone,” says the UNL.

The UNL, in urging the government to reconsider its proposed cuts, says it wants to speak with Bruins. In the meantime, it has engaged a Rotterdam law firm specialising in contract law.

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