Science - February 17, 2005

Don’t make profs the boss of A&F

The largest units at A&F will remain autonomous. The heads of the university chair groups will have a say in the research agenda, but will not become financially responsible for the units.

This is the essence of the advice formulated by the professors and institute employees involved concerning the future of the institute. The advice was sent to the executive board at the beginning of this week. Relatively few jobs will disappear in the business units Biobased Products and Quality in Chains (Quic). According to the advice, these business units ‘should remain within a DLO setting’ says director of business operations Dr Philip van der Heijden. Strategic conferences should be used to involve the university professors in the middle-term planning of the institute.
According to Van der Heijden most of the chair holders are not enthusiastic about taking over financial responsibility for large parts of the A&F institute. ‘That was the sore point. The average chair group at the university has one-third of its staff on permanent contracts and two-thirds on temporary contracts. In the institute there are far more people with a permanent contract. The chair groups are not equipped to bear that kind of responsibility in the long term.’
If most of the institute is to continue within a ‘DLO setting’, was the decision to disband A&F necessary? ‘Of course you are right that we could have thought up a similar construction under the banner A&F. But if we had done that there would have been far more possibilities. Now there’s more pressure.’
Van der Heijden does not want to say anything about the future of the business units Food Quality and Agrisystems and Environment. The executive board is still negotiating with an external party on parts of Food Quality. ‘We are talking about various small groups and that makes it a complex puzzle. If something changes in one part it has consequences for other units.’ He emphasises that things are still at the advisory stage. ‘We want to hear from the executive board whether we are on the right track with this model.’ / KV

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