Dutch universities demand gov't spend €1.1 billion to restore "normal academic level"
Professors, students, employees and administrators of Dutch universities are campaigning for more funding from the Dutch government to meet a "Normal Academic Level". In a campaign launched on Tuesday under the Dutch universities association VSNU, they said available funding per student has declined while the number of students continues to rise
The campaigners are asking politicians to protect the level of academic education and request 1.1 billion euros extra for scientific education and research from the future Cabinet, the VSNU said. The organization has repeatedly said that funding per student fell from roughly 20 thousand euros two decades ago, adjusted for inflation, down to about 15 thousand euros today.
The activists warned too little time and money is available for quality academic research and thorough education, which jeopardizes the Netherlands' global stature in science, research and academia. “Many university lecturers are forced to do their research in the evenings and weekends. Due to the structural underfunding, universities too often have to use lecturers who only teach and have no room for research. Exactly this interrelation of teaching and research is the very core of academic education.”, the statement also read.
"Yet these close ties between research and teaching are crucial to the quality of academic education. The best way to educate students is to have their lectures delivered by researchers. This way, students can learn first-hand about research methods and recent scientific insights, and develop the inquisitive and critical attitude they need, both in academia and beyond."
"Every year a bit of the cheese slicer goes over it," Professor Casper Albers from the University of Groningen told NOS Radio. "You have less time to prepare for lectures and your workgroups are fuller; where there used to be fifteen students per group, there are now more than twenty." The increased pressure has led many PhD students to leave the Netherlands or abandon their research.
The 1.1 billion euros the VSNU wants would help protect the high ranking the 14 universities in the Netherlands have in global surveys, the high quality of the programs offered, while boosting innovation and groundbreaking research. Aside from giving researchers and professors the resources they need, a structural investment in education will also help prevent staff from leaving their field due to a lack of support, or burnout, while keeping top talent in the country.
Pieter Duisenberg, chairman of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU), pointed out that the country is at risk of losing numerous talents who are disappointed and may turn away from science. To portray the difficult position the education is currently in, the activists have put together a series of performances around major student cities in the country. For example, a photo of Erasmus was set underwater in Nijmegen.
The VSNU pointed out that spending is nowhere near the government's target of pushing 2.5 percent of Dutch GDP into education and innovation. The target set by the European Union was set at three percent of GDP.