Wetenschap - 2 juli 1998

International Page

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International Page
WURC for foreigners
In our recent readers' survey many international students indicated they would like more information on policy and management at WAU. The summer vacation is almost here and the managers will also take a short break after a year of reorganisation and mergers: a good time to take stock of the state of affairs
Wageningen URC
Wageningen University and Research Centre, the new name for the joint venture of WAU and DLO (Research branch of the Ministry of Agriculture). Until recently known as Knowledge Centre Wageningen. In addition to the University and DLO it also includes smaller agricultural test stations. The name Wageningen URC was chosen in May as it was felt that KCW might make people think of KC and the Sunshine Band. If the new abbreviation (WURC) has peculiar associations for anyone the WISP'r would like to hear about it
Why WURC?
About four years ago there was a move by the Dutch government to reduce the number of universities. If the plans had gone Wageningen would probably have become part of one of the larger universities such as Utrecht or Nijmegen: a disaster scenario not only for university management but also for the Ministry of Agriculture. WAU is the only university in the Netherlands that falls under the Ministry of Agriculture instead of the Ministry of Education. By collaborating to form a centre of excellence WAU and DLO can strengthen the position of both the University and the Ministry. DLO also benefits from the merger. The Government is putting less money into research done by DLO, but by working together with WAU the agricultural researchers gain a stronger position in the competition for scarce funding
WURC feeling
Most members of staff at both establishments can see the point of the merger according to a survey commissioned by the Board. Collaboration is seen as a way to strengthen the market position of both partners. However, for most employees of both WAU and DLO, WURC remains a marriage of convenience. People are reticent, worried that the merger will lead to reorganisation and cuts. According to the Board there is no reason for fear: the cuts will be in overheads precisely in order to be able to keep up standards of education and research
DLO
Collection of research institutes belonging to the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture. The 12 institutes cover a broad subject range, from fishery to economics and biotechnology. Nine of the twelve institutes are based in Wageningen. The animal institute is in the Flevo Polder near Lelystad, the fishery institute on the coast at IJmuiden and the agricultural economists are close to the political centre of the Netherlands, in The Hague. By next year the institutes have to become self financing, which is why DLO is currently undergoing an internal reorganisation
Who has a say?
The management structure of Dutch universities has undergone major changes this year. The democratic university councils which students fought fot through demonstrations in the 1970s were replaced by advisory bodies. Less participation makes for a more effective management according to education minister Ritzen. Like the private sector universities now have works councils with employee representatives. The WAU works council is slow in getting started: meetings do not go smoothly and drawing up regulations is taking a lot of time. The students also have a council, and MSc students have voting rights for this. There were no elections this year, however, as there were just enough candidates for the twelve seats on the council
MSc students also have their own channel of communication with the University Board: the Foreign Students Consultation Group in which ISP delegates meet every two months with the Rector or Vice-rector
IAC
The International Agricultural Centre organises short courses for mid-career professionals from developing countries, and is also a partner in WURC. IAC is located on the Lawickse Allee and can be seen from the ISOW building, just peeping out above the children's farm
MSc Education
Regarded by the Board as a growth market. Dutch student numbers are declining, so WAU is hoping to attract more international students. The aim is to have double the number of international students here in a couple of years
The Board wants to come up with a new Plan for Education next year. One idea is to introduce a BSc-MSc model for the Dutch language education. This would then mean that the international MSc courses would be more integrated into the Dutch programmes. Although international students would then share more lectures with Dutch students, according to Rector Cees Karssen the courses themselves will not change much
Board of Directors
The three cases: Kees van Ast, Cees Veerman and Cees Karssen. Members of the Board of WURC since the beginning of 1998. Caused talk by having a car with chauffeur: unheard of for university management. Rector Cees Karssen, a plant physiologist by training, is responsible for education and research in the three-man team. Chairman Cees Veerman has a number of other board positions as well as an arable farm in South Holland. Kees van Ast from DLO is the financial board member
Education Building
The WURC Board wants to go ahead with building the planned new education building in the Dreijen complex. The building will have small rooms for classes and modern computer facilities. At the moment the University is holding talks with Hogeschool Diedenoort (College for Household and Facility Management) which is also interested in moving to the new building
WURC structure: Expertise Units
While WAU and DLO retain their separate identities they will be divided into five research fields known as Expertise Units: Plant, Animal, Agrotechnology and Nutrition, Social Sciences and Landscape Planning. The management level of each field has both WAU and DLO representatives who are responsible for coordinating research
Bert Speelman
Director of Education, former Chair of Agrotechnology. Responsible for education in consultation with the various institutes and course directors
Graduate Schools
Reorganisation of research at Dutch universities has been going on since 1990 under the former Minister of Education Jo Ritzen. His plan was to get rid of small programmes and concentrate on high quality research in research schools, and improving PhD education. Wageningen now has seven graduate schools: Plant Sciences, Animal Sciences, Production Ecology, Food Sciences, Toxicology and Environmental Sciences. The school for socio-economic research, the Mansholt Institute has not yet been officially recognised by the Dutch Academy of Science. The Landscape Planners also want to set up a graduate school. On top of all this the Ministry of Economic Affairs together with multinational Unilever finance research into food technology carried out at the Wageningen Centre for Food Sciences
ISP
International Student Panel consisting of representatives from all MSc programmes. Represents the international students at university level
Plant Sciences
A part of the university which has been struggling for years with financial problems. Student numbers have been steadily declining since the 1980s. Director Evert Jacobsen is expected to come up with a reorganisation plan soon, and redundancies are on the cards. The Board decided last year to change the chairs within this department: Plant Protection, Horticulture and Tropical Land Use will disappear, and the chair in Ecological Agriculture will be modified. Chairs no longer represent a specific production sector but have to integrate knowledge on various cultivation systems. It is not yet known whether this reshuffle will affect MSc education

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