What Happened to the Gender Studies MSc?
Enthusiastically applauded by different departments, fully approved by the University in 1997, and announced in this year's official WAU International Postgraduate Programme, the new MSc in Gender, Agriculture and Rural Development (GARD) was set to begin in September 1998. But the programme has not gone through after all. Why not? Caught at a time when a bureaucratic overhaul of the whole University structure is taking place, funding and staffing problems have caused a delay in the implementation of the MSc
As the first MSc in the world to deal specifically with gender and agriculture, the GARD programme has attracted a lot of interest from different quarters. In response to an energetic fund-raising and promotional effort through the Internet and a special website, the Gender Studies Chair Group received nearly 300 inquiries over a five month period in 1997. By January 1998, 75 applications had been received, of which 47 were considered to qualify for admission. However, the candidates were asked to wait another year
Chairperson of the recently-established GARD Committee which advises the Social Sciences Educational Institute (OWI) and the University Board on the future of the MSc programme, Franz von Benda Beckmann, Professor of Agrarian Law, explains some of the reasons behind the setback: At the moment, the Gender Studies Chair Group is clearly not able to function properly as there is not enough staffing capacity. Hired in 1995 to chair Gender Studies, Professor Patricia Howard-Borjas has since then seen her department dwindle from four permanent staff members to two: herself and recently-hired Associate-Professor Lisa Leimar Price. The two other lecturers left in the last year, and have not been replaced. As the programme was originally approved a year ago, OWI estimated that 3.8 full-time staff would be needed to handle the Chair Group's total teaching load and to be able to offer a quality MSc programme to an average of 15-20 students
On top of this, poor timing has complicated the issue of staffing for the Gender Studies Chair Group. When taking up her duties as Chair, Howard-Borjas inherited a poor research credit rating, and the Chair Group must now produce publications with no official support while waiting to be re-evaluated. Evaluations occur every five years, with staff being awarded to a department according to a system of research credits based on their publications. The issue of staffing is further complicated because the University is presently undergoing a restructuring process to create the new WUR (Wageningen University and Research-centre). Part of this process includes looking at how to redistribute staff and build on the already-existing capacity in order to cut costs. Von Benda Beckmann elaborates: The problem of where to find the resources to replace staff is one that all departments are experiencing right now, but because Gender Studies is such a small Chair Group in the first place, they really suffer from the lack of staff.
According to Bert Speelman, the head of WAU Education, a decision will be made next week as to whether resources will be available to allow the GARD MSc to go ahead at all. The Board is currently considering the planning for all of the international programmes, in the light of the cutbacks which will affect all aspects of the university. I cannot comment on one programme until I know how the whole international programming will proceed.
Speelman believes there should be more cooperation between different departments and Chair Groups. Proposals have been made in this direction for the GARD MSc, although there is disagreement on whether there are enough staff in Wageningen who are qualified to teach in-depth on gender issues. The GARD committee also wishes to combine efforts with the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in the Hague to make use of gender experts there. If the MSc goes through, Speelman has agreed that such a coordinated effort would be likely, though its extent would depend on available funding
The GARD committee is anxious to hear the decisions on the future of the MSc and the staffing of the Gender Studies Chair Group. Howard-Borjas is clearly concerned about the impact that the indecision has had on her group and its efforts, as well as the credibility of the programme and the University. Von Benda Beckmann remains hopeful: I am cautiously optimistic that the University will find a way to fund the MSc. It is an interesting programme and one which will attract students. Perhaps it is wishful thinking on my part, but it would not make any sense to me to scrap the programme now.
MSc's 1998/2000: Who are they?
This year's class of new MSc students has maintained the overall student number registered by the same time last year. As of August 24 there were 155 registered, and with a further 61 students expected, the total number should rise above last year's student numbers
Evert Kamphuis from the Dean's office is obviously pleased: We had been predicting earlier in the year that there would be a decline in MSc students this year, so this has surpassed all our expectations. However, the numbers are deceptive, because two new activities have brought students to the university through different channels, indicating that the traditional channels are in fact diminishing
For the first time, this year's students had access to a new government fund in the Netherlands, the University Fellowship Fund, which offered 13 more grants to international students coming to the WAU. Besides this, the new MSc programme in Food Studies, which is subsidised by its partners in the food industry, has attracted a whole new set of students (12 in total) to Wageningen
Number of MSc Students
Outgoing dean Jeanine Hermans thinks that the reason for the decline in traditional avenues is due to less funding being available outside of the Dutch and European fellowship grants. This indicates that students who used to come on money from private sources are on the decline. It is still too early to offer a full analysis of the reasons behind this trend
Leeuwenborch Library: evening/Saturday opening
From October 1st the Leeuwenborch Library will be open Monday - Thursday from 19.00 - 22.30
The library will also be open on Saturdays from 10.00 - 15.00. During these times students will be able to search the catalogue and CD-ROMs, borrow, renew and reserve books as well as study in the library