Organisation - April 26, 2018

Confusion about WUR’s new travel policy

Stijn van Gils

WUR’s policy on travelling has recently been refined. From now on, a central commission will decide whether students or staff can travel to dangerous regions. But there is still a lot of confusion in practice.

Map: © Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken

The new policy relies heavily on the travel advice given by the Dutch ministry of Foreign Affairs. WUR staff and students travelling to regions that the ministry judges to be ‘high risk’
need permission. If working in a ‘code yellow’ area, they need permission from the sciences group directors, for which they require a good travel plan and must have completed the Basic Safety and Security course. If they are going to a ‘code orange’ area (‘essential journeys only’), from now on they will also need a positive recommendation from a three-person central commission. This commission will give staff permission in exceptional circumstances. Students will only be allowed if the trip is part of the Disaster Studies specialism (part of International Development Studies).

In practice there has hardly been any communication with staff and students about the new travel policy. There was some consultation during the preparation stage but once the policy
was finalized, the document was just uploaded onto the intranet. As a result, many teachers in charge of organizing internships are unaware of the new policy. Some say they apply stricter rules and don’t send any students to areas that are at all risky. Others turn out to be more flexible.

Gemma van der Haar, who supervises students doing Disaster Studies, also did not realize the new travelm policy had been finalized. She finds the new rules OK. ‘I am pleased that our
students can now travel to orange regions too under certain conditions. This only affects a few well-prepared students a year who are really keen to go.’ She does find the colour codes very general and would prefer more customized solutions.

Marleen de Vries of Human Resources Management, who is regularly one of the three commission members, says they do in fact give more customized advice within the ministry’s
colour codes. ‘We look very closely at how much experience someone has and what their plans are.’ But she says WUR does not have enough expertise to implement an entire system of its own. ‘The ministry is much better able to get a picture of how safe the situation really is.’

Re:actions 3

  • Jules Moulineux

    Absolute disgrace. A mandatory €2000 course as a prerequisite for studying in basically any non-western country will take away the incentive for the far majority of students to experience working and living in a different environment. The WUR should either offer financial support for such courses or make it optional. Broadening the horizon outside of the western confines is an important part of academic and personal development, especially at an international university like the WUR. This has effectively been made impossible with this new policy.

  • Richard Chepkwony

    Hi van Gills, there is no mention of what we discussed though it is indeed a good general material.

    • Stijn van Gils

      Hi Richard, That is true. The short interview will be published in the next issue of Resource.