The Study Group for Development Issues recently celebrated its 20th anniversary in Wageningen. Retired development worker Loek Kortenhorst, who worked for forty years in Third World countries, was hesitant about giving a speech, because he could only come up with sad stories. When he visited Kenya ten years after he had worked there, he was shocked by the population growth the unused public toilets he and his colleagues had built and the discontinuation of the irrigation teams he had set up. In the meantime there had been no alleviation of the grinding poverty. What had also not changed was the strong involvement of the development workers, who showed their projects with pride and told Kortenhorst what had already been achieved and what had started to become a success. The same old story in a new jacket - the young people talked about gender issues and helping the people to find their own way. Kortenhorst has lost faith in development work. The main problem is that the local governments are not interested in agricultural development. Take India and Pakistan: we finance their rural development projects, while they produce an atomic bomb. It's time to readjust our development policy.
The University Executive Board is considering reorganising the study programmes in Wageningen. The five-year degree course should be replaced by the Anglo-Saxon study pattern of a three-year BSc followed by a two-year MSc programme. A limited number of BSc programmes should give students a broad and fundamental picture of science. The MSc study would then be used to go further into a specialized area. The Rector and Directors of Education are not sure whether this is a good plan. Many students already know what they want to specialize in and therefore want to start a more practical programme as soon as possible. The proposed reorganisation may also limit the number of courses available. At the moment WAU offers about 1400 courses for 540 students. It's impossible to keep up all these courses, according to one of the education directors
Minister of Education Jo Ritzen has selected six top graduate schools which will receive an extra forty million guilders over the next five years for research. This subsidy will be funded indirectly by other groups of Dutch scientists, as Ritzen has not increased the total R&D budget. The directors of the top schools are pleased that they have been selected. For too long all departments at Dutch universities received the same amount of money, states graduate school director Joachim Wolter from the Technical School in Eindhoven. Holland is too small to maintain all scientific disciplines equally; choices have to be made if we are to compete internationally. Foreign colleagues are quite impressed by this boost from the government.