Science - April 7, 2005

Council demands better A&F plan

The Wageningen UR central representative council (COR) is not yet prepared to agree to the plan in which the A&F (Agrotechnology & Food Innovations) institute would be subsumed under the university. The COR wants to see a decent business plan first.

This was the essence of the advice that the council gave to the executive board on Tuesday this week. The executive board wants to close down A&F, and transfer a large part of the institute to the university. According to the COR, however, the executive board has not worked out the decision fully. In particular, it is not clear how this move would solve the biggest problem of A&F, lack of finance. In addition, the plan does not indicate what the concrete benefits of cooperation with the university will be. As a result, the COR has given a negative recommendation at this stage concerning the plan. It will only issue a final judgement once detailed business plans have been written for the different sections of A&F.

Dr Gerrit Bruin, head of the COR: ‘It is not that we oppose a plan that includes a rigorous shake-up of an institute. It is clear that something needs to happen at A&F, it’s not without reason that there has been a 17 million loss over the last five years. But the plan as it stands has no firm foundation.’

The representative council of A&F declared itself absolutely opposed to the plan to close down the institute, saying that the financial problems had been caused by the ministry of agriculture investing less and less in technological research. The A&F researchers are successful in the research market. The central representative council agrees with this interpretation as well. The ministry is not paying enough attention to technology. ‘It is the task of the executive board to make this clear to the ministry of agriculture,’ the council writes in its memorandum.

Dr Arie Bent, chair of the A&F representative council is relieved that the central representative council has not agreed to closing down the institute. ‘We would have like to seen some harder conditions being laid down. It’s still somewhat open-ended in its formulation.’ The executive council has indicated that ‘it will do its best to accommodate requirements’ of the central representative council. / KV

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