The success of Dutch agriculture is partly due to the organisation of farmers in cooperatives. These can generate a strong position for negotiating with the food trade organisations. Recently, Dutch farmers have formed new cooperatives to try to market new small-scale products, as the existing organisations have grown too big to incorporate small-scale regional products into their international business. The new initiatives, which are trying to increase the added value of agricultural products, are having a hard time communicating directly with the Dutch consumers. A new product will stand a chance on the market if it can manage to elbow out existing products or if it represents an environmentally sound concept, says a food market adviser.
Foreign workers are advancing in the WAU research programmes. The graduate schools Vlag and M&T have used additional funds to attract nearly twenty postdoctoral researchers from abroad. The visiting scientists form part of the process of internationalisation of the university, but are also less expensive than their Dutch colleagues - their grant is lower than a Dutch salary and they do not receive any pay from the university once they are finished. This situation may change, however, because the European Union wants the research fellows to receive a salary which matches the standards of the country where the work is done.
Exams determine the learning behaviour of students to a great extent. What is a proper exam? Examination questions rarely meet the goals of the course lecturer - they often test knowledge and simple applications, but they rarely require that the students judge the knowledge they have acquired, says Jan Steen from the department of Agricultural Education. Lack of clarity in the formulation of questions is also common. I have seen exams which my colleagues wouldn't pass," says physical chemist Geurts. Lecturers should first present their exam to a few colleagues." Another warning: the course specialist should not subject students to their nice or trick questions; the students won't understand them.
The four refectories at the students clubs in Wageningen decided to serve organic meat a few years ago. They have now reneged on that decision, because the free-range meat has become more expensive and the university's subsidies have decreased. Only Unitas still tries to approximate organic standards by using animal-friendly meat.