In late January, VVD MP Pieter Duisenberg asked education minister Bussemaker to examine the political preferences of researchers. He expected that they would prove to be predominantly left leaning.
‘There are signals coming in from all across the Netherlands that there is a sense of political homogeneity among researchers’, he told the Lower House at the time. ‘You could argue that that isn’t really a problem, but studies abroad say that it is indeed a problem in higher education. Some researchers describe it as a glass ceiling.’
The minister would not hear of it, according to an interview with her in the Hoger Onderwijs Persbureau (Higher Education Press Agency, HOP). ‘I have never seen any research anywhere that shows that right-leaning researchers do not have the same opportunities within a university’, she says. But the right wing parties in the Lower House feel otherwise.
The PVV, CDA, SGP and several other smaller parties supported a motion submitted by Duisenberg on the subject on Wednesday, according to HOP. The parties want the minister to approach the Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen (the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences, KNAW) for advice and for further research to be conducted on the topic.
Duisenberg came up with the idea after it was claimed that UvA researchers had depicted women who travel to join the caliphate in a relatively positive light. According to NRC, one of the researchers was supposedly sympathetic to the jihadists. ‘Research like that which was done on the women who joined Islamic State and had a fine time was permitted’, Duisenberg says.
According to Jouke de Vries, a political scientist and the dean of RUG/Campus Fryslân, the motion is a sign of the times. ‘That is an indication that things are changing in Dutch society and politics. Otherwise, this motion would have been dismissed.’
‘There is always bias in an organisation or in a period of time, and Duisenberg has hit upon the assumption that a lot of scientists are liberal or on the left side of the political side of the spectrum’, according to De Vries, who has his doubts about the homogeneity that Duisenberg describes. ‘If you look to the law faculty in Leiden, for example, there is Paul Cliteur and Afshin Ellian, who are open about their conservative ideas. They work with the students, and Thierry Baudet (a former pupil of Cliteur, ed.) is now one of the front-runners for Forum voor Democratie. But the example doesn’t prove the theory.’