Farmers from the United States visited Dutch colleaques last week to study the Dutch policy on agriculture and environment. Especially the bookkeeping inwhich Dutch farmers have to note down the inputs and outputs of minerals in manure was discussed during visits at several farms. Dutch environmental policy is far ahead of American policy, and farmers near New York City want to use the Dutch experience to propose a policy in their State that will keep the groundwater clean and won't affect the landuse in that area.
WAU is not only studying sustainable development, but also wants to implement it within the university. WAU personnel collect paper for recycling and are being asked to go to work on a bicycle or with public transportation. Is there anything more to gain? A study on ways of decreasing the use of energy in research projects is difficult to achieve: scientists don't see it as their task to organise policies which save energy and resources, and management has difficulty motivating the scientists to contribute. Still, the university wants to screen all the research programmes on their implications for the environment.
The university wants to improve the standard of the practical period of students during their degree courses. The practical period is mostly used to sniff at a future professional career, but the educational goals are neglected. At some departments, students don't have to write a report after their training. In the future, students should make a work plan and arrangements about supervision beforehand. Further, they should not be involved in routine work, and should be required to write a report. Some departments, which already have this procedure, welcome this change from WAU's Board; others prefer a more liberal approach and state that their departments will negotiate with the patron of the students, what is most suitable under the circumstances.
Young Dutch scientists face more and more difficulties in making a scientific career. First step for an MSc graduate is to find a PhD position. By the time the PhD contract is finished, the scientist is quite specialised and is often reluctant to find a job outside the university or institute. If (s)he wants to continue, his/her supervisors should come up with post-doc positions, but these are very rare. All the universities are suffering severe cutbacks and first allow regular workers at reduced pay to take open positions. A result of this situation is that the universities face a generation gap: most of the permanent workers with solid conditions of employment are older, while the younger ones are replaced by freshmen after a period of time. Some research managers fear that this may affect the research quality in due time.