Wetenschap - 5 september 2002

Dijkhuizen not too pessimistic about budget cuts

Dijkhuizen not too pessimistic about budget cuts

The opening of the academic year in the Netherlands this week saw criticism from nearly all universities of the new government's plans for budget cuts. Wageningen UR chairman Aalt Dijkhuizen seems to be more optimistic than the rest.

Nearly all university boards have accused the Dutch cabinet of ignoring the agreements made at the European summit held in March this year in Barcelona. Twenty-nine European countries, including the Netherlands, confirmed the importance of knowledge for the European economy, and agreed to increase their education budgets to three percent of the gross national product by 2010. At present the Dutch government has confined itself to just over two percent. But Balkenende's cabinet wants to make further higher education cuts of four percent in the name of 'efficiency cuts'.

Chairman of the board of Leiden University, Loek Vredevoogd, announced that his university is likely to have to sell off a part of its collection as a result of the cuts. Others have referred to the news as an 'outright disaster' (Jan Veldhuis, chairman of the board of Utrecht University), 'not much good' (Karl Dittrich of Universiteit Maastricht) and 'incomprehensible' policy (Wim Noomen of the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam).

By contrast the Wageningen chairman Aalt Dijkhuizen was much milder in his opinion. He did express anxiety about the consequences of the current economic situation; not only the government, but also businesses are likely to reduce their spending on research and development. But Dijkhuizen continued in the same breath that it is important that Wageningen UR offers 'value for money' in these difficult times.

Korn? Versluis, HOP

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