Science - March 17, 2005

Council opposed to scrapping A&F

The employees’ council (OR) of the Agrotechnology and Food Sciences Group is not in favour of the plans to subsume A&F within the university. The OR believes the institute is strong enough to continue independently, and has issued a statement to this effect.

According to the council, A&F has managed to maintain a constant turnover from contract research for the past four years, despite adverse economic conditions. The researchers at the institute earn 20 million euros from contract research each year, about 65 percent of the total turnover.

The main cause of the financial problems is that A&F has received less money each year from the ministry of agriculture. The OR cites figures from the financial annual report to show that A&F’s income from the ministry has decreased by 23 percent since 2001, while contract research has only decreased by seven percent. ‘It is absolutely not the case that we are not doing well in market terms,’ says OR chair Arie van der Bent. ‘The accusation is unfair; our turnover per researcher has actually increased.’

According to the OR, the losses of the institute reported for 2004 do not accurately reflect the state of affairs. The annual figures show a loss of seven million euros for last year, but the OR thinks this is partly due to costs carried over from 2003. Van der Bent: ‘We are not saying there are no problems, but they are not as big as the seven million would suggest. They certainly do not justify doing away with the institute; the core of this institute is healthy.’

The OR sees the root of the problem in the relatively small portion that it receives from the knowledge-base funds of the ministry of agriculture. ‘The Wageningen UR management say there is little they can do about this; the ministry does not want to spend money on technology. But from the minister and his civil servants we hear that this is Wageningen UR’s own choice,’ continues Van der Bent. He wants to see the plan to get rid of the institute scrapped. The OR has sent a memorandum to the Central DLO Representative Council, the organ that will advise the executive board on how to proceed. The chair of the Central Representative Council, Gerrit Bruin is not giving anything away yet. ‘We are still busy with our own decision. I can only say that we will consider the memorandum very carefully.’ / KV

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