News - September 9, 2016

Column: Skiving

Stijn van Gils

I never skived as a student. Not once. I do now, regularly. I am ashamed of it so to compensate, I am fairly open about it. If someone asks what I’m going to do on a skive-day, I just say, ‘Oh, skive off.’ Strikes me as a smart strategy because the other person thinks I’m joking, leaving me free to confess my academic misconduct.

The reason I skive is as painful as it is funny: I skive so I can teach. It works like this: I am not working for the university but for a non-WUR research institute. As its name suggests, our main work at this institute is research. But I enjoy teaching too. Skiving off to teach is therapeutic for me. After teaching ecology to first-year students all morning, I feel useful again and I can work on longer with renewed self-confidence.

Sadly, skiving is not a good business model. With annual student growth at 10 percent and budget growth at 2 percent, Wageningen education is less and less profitable. Education is already a loss-making activity for the chair group where I skive.

For a while I hoped that would change. The four technical universities (Wageningen is a bit technical too) threatened to cap admissions if their budget didn’t grow. Secretly I was already dreaming of being hired legally on the strength of that extra budget, and showing my students around without any guilt feelings. Those hopes were soon dashed. Minister Jet Bussemaker announced straightaway that an admissions cap is fine by her. So for now I’ll go on skiving. Hopefully after my PhD I’ll find another employer who is willing to tolerate my skiving.

Stijn van Gils (29) is doing doctoral research on ecosystem services in agriculture. Every month he describes his struggles with the scientific system.