Concerns about RUG’s record growth

A more than 20 percent increase in students threatens trouble for the RUG. The university council is concerned about housing and space at the university.
By Thereza Langeler / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen / Photo by Elmer Spaargaren

The latest growth forecast is based on the number of pre-enrolments on 1 May. These numbers could change come September; some students could decide to attend a different university, for example. Nevertheless, the prognosis is higher than ever.

An increase of more than 23 percent is expected in first-year bachelor students. The number of master programme enrolments has also increased greatly: 19.5 percent more than 2017. The departments with the biggest growth are the faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences (BSS) and Science and Engineering (FSE).

Both departments already suffer from a lack of educational and exam spaces. At FSE, the Bernoulliborg and Linnaeusborg are too small for the number for students and staff that currently use the buildings.

Full up

BSS has even had to schedule psychology exams on weekend and evenings. This programme had its numerus clausus – that is, the fixed number of spots allowed – removed for the 2018-2019 academic year, and is now expecting a record number of first-year students.

‘We’re really concerned about what we’re going to do in the next few years’, says Dini Bouwman with the personnel faction. ‘If this growth persists, we’re in big trouble.’

The RUG made a long-term prognosis based on demographic estimations and its own ambitions. If the current trend continues, the university will have no fewer than 35,000 students by 2025, the prognosis shows.

Council members are arguing for swift measures. ‘We have to start making decisions now’, says Bouwman. ‘The board of directors needs to show initiative and prevent this from getting out of hand. We’re just full up.’

Numerus clausus

‘We’re not just letting this happen to us; we’re trying to figure out how to anticipate it’, says RUG spokesperson Gernant Deekens about the expected growth. The university can intervene if the student numbers continue to grow unabated. ‘For instance by applying a numerus clausus to certain programmes.’

Some programmes, such as Artificial Intelligence and International Business, will have a limited numbers of spots available in the 2019-2020 academic year. Psychology’s numerus clausus policy will be reinstated in 2019 as well. Deekens says that the RUG is working on solving the capacity issues in educational buildings with renovation projects and new construction.

But it’s not just only the lack of education spaces that raises concern. The new students will also need a place to live, something that’s especially difficult for international students to secure. And the group expected to grow the most? First-years from outside the Netherlands, according to the enrolments from 1 May.


‘It was shown as early as January that SSH would have a shortage of more than five hundred rooms’, Jasper Been with student party DAG says. ‘Now there are even more enrolments than expected. I think there’s a real chance that not everyone will have a place to sleep next year.’

University manager Jan de Jeu acknowledges that the number of enrolments is higher than the RUG expected. ‘The number of students that have enrolled in Psychology is much higher than we’d like, for instance. But we’re not yet sure how many of those students will actually end up in Groningen.’

De Jeu can’t promise that everyone will have a room by September. ‘But I do think everyone will have a place to sleep.’

The university, in collaboration with the Hanze University of Applied Sciences and the municipality, is doing everything it can to provide enough space in a timely manner, De Jeu emphasises. They’re working on a facility where students can stay temporarily, such as a hotel or a boat.

The university will also ask its employees to take in stranded students if they have the room. ‘Everything we can do to help.’

So how many students are expected?

Based on the enrolments of 1 May, the university has created an overview of the number of weighted enrolments of new students. The weight of an enrolment is determined by how many universities a potential student has signed up for. If they only signed up at the RUG, they count as a single, full enrolment. A student that’s signed up at two universities, counts as 0.5 of an enrolment, and someone who’s signed up at five different places, counts as 0.2.

This time last year, there were 9,062 weighted first-year bachelor enrolments. This year, the number is 11,217.5. The increase in master enrolments is slightly smaller, but still significant: it went from 4,852.7 weighted enrolments to 5,799.7.

The number of pre-enrolments has also been broken down by nationality. The smallest increase is among Dutch first-years: 11 percent more than in 2017. The number of international students is growing much faster. This year, the RUG will have 49.7 percent more students from Europe, and 30.6 more students from outside Europe.


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