Minister of Agriculture Jozias van Aartsen has reduced the cutbacks for the WAU and DLO agricultural research institutes. In 1997 there will still be a three million guilder reduction to the University's budget, but the cutback of the same amount planned for 1998 has been scrapped, after the Dutch parliament insisted that Van Aartsen's efficiency measures should be reinvested in Wageningen.
Minister of Education Jo Ritzen has recently changed the democratic system at Dutch universities - staff and students no longer have the power of decision. In practise, however, the students had little power in the old system. According to Ritzen they are better off with a concerted say in education policy. Higher education in Holland is okay, but at the same time it needs improvement. I can't help it if my message is sometimes a little schizophrenic."
Ritzen has also started a new discussion about the Dutch grant system. The current system, now ten years old, is eroding, some critics say. Students receive a meagre grant and need extra money from their parents or, if their parents cannot afford this, they can receive a loan from the ministry. Many of them are loath to take on a high loan, and instead start working in restaurants or factories, leaving little time for study. At the same time, the pressure on them to pass exams is increasing. An alternative being discussed is that students receive a full grant for their first years at university and later on have to depend on loans. The basic structure of the grant system will not change, some politicians say.
New food products like Yakult and Mona Vifit are healthy because they include bacteria which have a beneficial effect on the digestion, the producers claim. The WAU graduate school Vlag (Food Technology) has started a multidisciplinary research programme to check this out. Part of the research focuses on the chemical reactions the bacteria produce in your body, while other departments organise food tests with people and pigs, to find out whether the bacteria change faecal composition and improve resistance to illness. There are no clear results yet.
For foreigners especially, the Rhine dike, the view over the river floodplain, high water levels, the skating and a walk along the river are the most important features of Wageningen", explained Willem Vos, chief gardener of the DLO institute for Forest and Nature Research recently. He wants a town plan that integrates the canals and small rivers inside and around Wageningen. The various research departments and institutes should also be concentrated in environmentally sound science parks. The municipality is working on a Landscape Plan, with a lot of water, but practical problems may hinder this plan. We wonder if you would welcome more canals in Wageningen, especially when you try out your bike for the first time.