Journalists’ union concerned about censorship at university magazines

The Dutch journalists’ union NVJ and the Dutch Association for Science Journalism and Communication are concerned about rising censorship at independent university media. Increasingly, they say, these media experience pressure from university boards not to publish critical articles.

This happened last year at several institutes, including TU Eindhoven. There, the editor-in-chief was fired by the university, after which the magazine blacked out their website in protest. The associations call on universities to respect the independence of editorial boards, especially when they are critical of their own institute.

Dutch

UG looks at participating in Wintergoud in city centre

The UG wants to explore participating in Wintergoud, Groningen’s new winter programme through which the municipality and various city organisations want to bring more life to the city centre. The ice rink will return to the Grote Markt and there will be a Ferris wheel. The Winterwelvaart festival (which has so far taken place at the Hoge der A and Lage der A) will also be extended towards the city centre. Dinie Bouwman of the personnel section wondered why the UG is not participating during a university council meeting. ‘The House of Connections at the Grote Markt is a great attraction,’ she says. ‘The UG could let researchers present their work. We could even lure people with hot chocolate.’ ‘That’s a good tip,’ responded rector magnificus Jaquelien Scherpen. ‘I didn’t know about this, but we will definitely think about it.’

International student can vote in Netherlands in EU elections

For the European Parliament elections in June, EU students can decide whether they want to vote in the Netherlands or in their country of origin. To vote in the Netherlands if you aren’t a citizen, you need to fill in a form (in Dutch) declaring you’re not going to participate in the elections in any other country, and deliver it to the municipality by April 23 with a copy of your ID.  If you change your mind and decide to vote in your country of origin after all, you have to cancel your registration by April 23 as well.

Unions want 4.3 percent pay rise

In the collective labour agreement negotiations with the universities, which are set to begin on March 27, the unions are aiming for a 4.3 percent pay rise and an increase of 150 euros to every salary scale. This would mean that lower scales would grow relatively faster than higher scales. Additionally, the salary scales should automatically adjust annually to price increases. The unions want agreements on reducing workload, improving social safety, and creating a diverse work environment. Further items on the wish list include: making structural work equivalent to a permanent contract, granting full-time contracts to lecturers who ask for them, and providing better protection for PhD candidates, tenure-trackers, and postdocs in case of illness or absence.

Former rector Cisca Wijmenga is new chair of NWO committee

Cisca Wijmenga, the first female rector of the University of Groningen (2019-2023), has been appointed as the new chair of the Permanent Committee on Large-Scale Scientific Infrastructure (PC-GWI). This decision was made by the board of directors of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). Wijmenga is a professor of human genetics at the University of Groningen and the University Medical Centre Groningen. In 2015, she was awarded a Spinoza Prize, also known as the Dutch Nobel Prize.

Formal training for study advisors

Starting next year, study advisors will receive training before they take up their role. This is part of the new action plan for student wellbeing which will be discussed in the university council next week. Currently, there is no formal education for study advisors. They do attend various training sessions, but there is no clear foundation. At the same time, the university acknowledges their essential role as the link between students and the academic programme. Therefore, the faculties of Arts, Science and Engineering, and Economics and Business started a course in September to improve this situation. It is scheduled to be evaluated, adjusted, and implemented at other faculties over the coming summer. From then on, the programme will be offered annually or biennially.

41 incidents reported to introductory periods committee

Last year, student and study associations reported 41 incidents to Advisory Committee for Introductory Periods (ACI). That's the same number as in 2022. In seventeen cases, it involved an accident. Arguments and fights occurred seven times. Two reports concerned sexual misconduct. The ACI observes that the associations themselves handle the incidents well. However, it notes that reports from study and sports associations are lagging behind – two came from a study association and five from a sports club. The ACI therefore aims to better educate this group of associations about the importance of reporting incidents.

GSb angry about excluding students from mandatory permanent lease

Groningen student union GSb is indignant that caretaker minister Hugo de Jonge (Housing) excludes students from a law ending temporary lease agreements. 'Students already have a precarious position in the housing market, and now this', says chairman Ken Hesselink. As of July 1, landlords are no longer allowed to offer temporary contracts. The planned exception for lease agreements for international students turned out to be legally unfeasible, prompting De Jonge to choose to exclude all students. 'There is no valid reason for that', says Hesselink. 'This seems like a repetition of the energy allowance debacle.'

Seven new members for Young Academy

The Young Academy Groningen (YAG) has elected seven new members. They are Defne Abur (speech technology), Daphne Brandenburg (moral psychology), Ole Gmelin (developmental psychology), Dina Maniar (polymer chemistry), Björn Mitzinneck (collaboration in sustainability transition), Nynke Vellinga (autonomous mobility) and Thom de Vries (human resource management).  The YAG is a group of at least thirty scientists who completed a PhD less than ten years ago. The new members are committed to cooperation between research areas, promoting science to society and diversity and inclusion within the university. They will be officially installed in October for a five-year period.

Film prize for philosophy student

Groningen philosophy student Okki Poortvliet has won the Noordster for best film made in the North at the International Film Festival in Assen. It comes with 1,000 euros in prize money. Her film Over het Wildrooster (Behind the wildlife grid) is about three people who visit the woods between the villages of Odoorn and Exloo every day. Poortvliet shows the world behind the wildlife grid and asks: is this world different? More peaceful? The jury called the film an ‘ode to nature’ and a ‘refuge in the ominous times we live in’.  Poortvliet has already won several awards with her films, including the Drentse Talentprijs Cultuur and the Best Groningen Film non-fiction in 2021.

Adriaan Minnaard wins 1.6 million euro Science Award

Professor Adriaan Minnaard (Faculty of Science and Engineering) is one of four winners of the Ammodo Science Award, a prize for groundbreaking research. Minnaard received the award along with research groups from the UvA and Harvard University for research into tuberculosis, the world's deadliest infectious disease. The group showed how tuberculosis bacteria can survive in the body by making special fat molecules. Minnaard can replicate those molecules in the lab, to do follow-up research on them. The prize money for the Science Award is 1.6 million euros.

Vici grants for UG and UMCG scientists

The NWO has awarded Vici grants of up to 1.5 million euros each to UG scientists Nathalie Katsonis (FSE), Edwin Otten (FSE) and Alexandra Zhernakova (UMCG). Vici is one of the largest scientific grants in the Netherlands. Professor of Coastal Ecology Tjisse van der Heide (FSE) also received a Vici for a research project he will carry out within the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ). The grant will allow the researchers to develop an innovative line of research for five years and set up their own research group.

Medical student turns to Council of State once again

Medical student Jaap Pesman has once again turned to the Council of State in his long-standing battle against the UG. Pesman received a ‘Not Yet On Track’ – a failing grade – during his second series of internships at the Deventer hospital. As a result, he had to complete two additional internships, a decision he deemed unjust. He claims to be a victim of bias from his examiner. He filed numerous objections and appeals, but to no avail. The Council of State ruled last year that the examination committee needed to better substantiate its decision, but the outcome remained the same. Hence, Pesman is now approaching the Council of State once again. A verdict is expected in a few weeks.

Fire in student building Papengang

A fire broke out Wednesday morning on the first floor of a fifteen room-student building on Papengang. Eight people had to be evacuated from the building with a hydraulic lift; the other residents were able to leave the building on their own. One person was taken to the hospital. One of the residents told Dagblad van het Noorden that she found the building very dangerous. 'The owner has been addressed many times, but they don't give a fuck.'

Lower house votes for numerus clausus on English-language studies

Last Thursday, the Dutch Lower House voted for a separate numerus clausus on the English-language versions of study programmes. Universities can use the measure, which anticipates the delayed Internationalisation in Balance Act, to curtail the number of international students coming to the Netherlands. Because the numerus clausus has been added to the budget of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Upper House has to vote on the whole thing. Therefore, the amendment is likely to be passed. The numerus clausus option must be implemented in the system of educational institutions and Studielink by October 1.

AcademieKus goes to Marie-José van Tol for ‘Everyone professor’

UG professor of cognitive neuropsychiatry Marie-José van Tol is one of this year's winners of the AcademieKus from education union AOb. She's getting the award because of her commitment to equal rights and less hierarchy within academia. The jury praises Van Tol's commitment, not only within the UG, but also as president of De Jonge Akademie, to get and keep the theme 'Everyone Professor' on the agenda. Last year, social safety expert Susanne Täuber, dismissed by the UG, was awarded the prize, for her commitment to gender equality at universities.

Five UG faculties will take part in pilot Smarter Academic Year

Five UG faculties are taking part in the national pilot Smarter Academic Year. Compared to other European universities, the Dutch academic year is relatively long. With the pilot, the universities hope to bring more peace and quiet into the academic year, for students and staff alike. One way to achieve this is by reducing the number of teaching and exam weeks. At the UG, the faculties of economics and business administration, science and engineering, spatial sciences, philosophy, and arts are participating.

UG takes the first step for Campus Drachten

In September of this year, the UG will launch an Engineering Doctorate (EngD) program in Drachten. Together with partners such as NHL Stenden and Philips Drachten, this marks a significant step for Campus Drachten. Campus Drachten focuses on healthcare technology and high-tech innovation, emphasising the essential collaboration between partners, according to the founders. The EngD in Autonomous Systems is a crucial component of this initiative, serving as the first academic programme. It is a two-year post-master's programme that combines traditional scientific methods with direct industry involvement.