The economic reforms in Russia have had a damaging effect on the endless Russian countryside, says retired scientist Marius Broekmeyer in a book that describes the breakdown of village life since the Second World War. The local authorities have used the privatisation of the state farms to divide the useful resources among themselves, leaving the agricultural workers in a position of dependency. Even the smallholdings of the workers, always the main source of food in Russia, are in trouble now, as the fodder which used to be taken from the state farms is no longer available. Broekmeyer, who will join a symposium on Russian reforms, organised by the student organisation Aiesec in March, fears famine. A Dutch consultant states that the food production level in Russia has dropped by over thirty percent since 1990.
The WAU is engaged in scientific cooperation with the Academy of Science of China, in particular in the field of horticulture. The academy wants to learn from the knowledge of plant breeding available in Wageningen, because the demand for vegetables is rapidly growing in China's booming economy. Four Chinese PhD students are working at the Department of Plant Breeding. Vice-director of the academy, Zhu Dewei, wants to develop cooperation slowly, in line with the Chinese philosophy of building trust first.
Since the Dutch government has linked the payment of tuition fees for students to their performance - they need to earn at least ten credit points a year - some students have been getting into trouble. Last year, 155 WAU students failed to reach the tempo norm. Student councillors and programme coordinators then try to ascertain the reasons. Some of the students failed for the second time to earn sufficient credit points. These notorious cases should stop studying, says one councillor, But when they stop, they feel they loose their identity." In order to prevent enormous debts, it would be useful to be able to issue a binding advice at times, says one of the coordinators. A new government directive states that the universities can issue binding advice after a student has been studying for a minimum of six months.
Despite the recent cutbacks, WAU is continuing to create temporary jobs for workers with a handicap, who qualify for a learn-work arrangement. Two of them are administrative workers and want to lead as normal a life as possible. My friends recently asked to go roller skating with them!," says Richard van Apeldoorn, whose legs are injured. And Karin de Langen, who is partially sighted, uses her bike just like any sighted person. I take risks. I want to find out how far I can go."