Jouke, Jacquelien, and Hans: You need to protest the cutbacks loudly and visibly

It appears as though university boards are already throwing in the towel when it comes to the severe cutbacks the new Lower House says it will make in higher education, columnist Dirk-Jan Scheffers says. ‘Like a turkey voting in favour of Christmas.’

According to the European Parliament (EP) – which most of you will have got to vote for a few weeks ago – academic freedom in the Netherlands is under pressure. I’m not a big fan of rankings, but the fact that the Netherlands is number 24 out of 27 member states is worrying.

The EP says several things are problematic, including the central leadership model with its appointed managers and a lack of self-administration. The report also says that academic freedom isn’t properly defined in the Netherlands and that the government interferes too much with university administration.

In a letter published last week, the fifteen rectores magnifici of the Dutch universities used academic freedom as an argument to not sever ties with Israeli universities. At the same, the rectors said they would do this if the government ‘forced or advised’ them to do so.

It’s worrying that the Netherlands is in 24th place in the EU when it comes to academic freedom

The EP’s report couldn’t have asked for a better example. The rectors didn’t discuss their views with the academic community (central leadership), the letter pays lip service to the concept of academic freedom without specifying it (poor definition), and they will act if the government asks them to (interference).

Many of my colleagues preceded me in expressing their dissatisfaction – not even necessarily about the viewpoints themselves but more about the way they were formulated and communicated.

The response to the coalition agreement is also awash in centralism and cowering to government interference, when they should really be dissenting strongly, so the academic community feels supported, defended, and represented.

Obviously, national media reports that people are ‘shocked’, calling the cutbacks a ‘blow’ – which isn’t surprising, since they amount to the equivalent of an entire university being closed. But I haven’t heard a single manager say that they won’t stand for or implement the cutbacks.

Or that the coalition agreement goes against the 2022 administrative agreement on higher education and science, which covers structural investments for the next ten years. Talk about a ‘reliable government’.

The response to the coalition agreement is awash in cowering to government interference

I have noticed, however, that many places, including Groningen, are already preparing for the cutbacks, even though the government isn’t even official yet and no budget has been presented. Managers should be careful not give the appearance they, like the proverbial goose voting in favour of Christmas, don’t already tell Eppo Bruins where exactly he can cut costs.

In a letter the future minister apparently contributed to (as chair of the advisory council for science, technology, and innovation), the engineering sector pointed a barely disguised finger at the arts and social sciences, intimating they should face the most cutbacks.

That’s why I’d hereby like to call on our manager: protest loudly against these announced cutbacks in higher education and show that you will defend all fields, as well as your students and employees. Protest behind closed doors, but also visibly and audibly. We can start on Saturday, June 22, at the Jaarbeurs square in Utrecht.

Jouke, Jacquelien, and Hans – see you there?



De spelregels voor reageren: blijf on topic, geen herhalingen, geen URLs, geen haatspraak en beledigingen. / The rules for commenting: stay on topic, don't repeat yourself, no URLs, no hate speech or insults.


1 Reactie
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments