Wetenschap - 20 december 2011

Chair reduction criticized

A restructuring taskforce has proposed removing a chair in the area of communication, innovation and technology. The affected chair groups and 17 beta-professors are concerned about the consequences of this move.

Under the university's present chair group structure, there are two professorships in Communication and Innovation Studies, one in Applied Philosophy, and one in Technology and Agrarian Development (TAD). These three chair groups have been grouped into the Communication, Innovation, Technology and Ethics (CITE) cluster last year. But three of the four professors in these groups (Paul Richards, Cees van Woerkum en Michiel Korthals) have retired or will retire soon. As such, rector Martin Kropff has appointed a restructuring taskforce to revamp their teaching assignments, stipulating that the number of chairs has to be reduced from four to three.
The restructuring taskforce has proposed to have chairs in Philosophy, Strategic Communication & Knowledge Management, and Innovation & Technology. The last chair combines the innovation group of Professor Cees Leeuwis and the TAD group. These groups are now concerned that their budgets will be reduced while they are up to their necks with work. The group of Leeuwis has 24 PhD students; TAD has 44. Cost-cutting measures would seriously jeopardize the ability to supervise these students, the groups involved write to rector Martin Kropff.
Also concerned about the situation are 17 Wageningen professors in the natural sciences. They work together with these chair groups within the much talked-about beta-gamma integration. Writing to Kropff, they say that the current chairs are 'indispensable for the quality of our work'.
The rector states that the university can invest in new chairs only if present chairs are discontinued or revamped according to the new-for-old principle. Revamping can only take place if a professor stops working or retires, says Kropff. In the CITE situation, a reduction would be appropriate because the teaching load in the four groups is similar to that of two or three groups elsewhere in the organization. 'In this way, we can innovate without major personnel consequences.' Kropff will also be advised by the Educational Institute regarding the restructuring taskforce's plans. The executive board will then make a decision.

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