News - February 11, 2010

Forty jobs at VHL to go

VHL University of Applied Sciences will have to lay off forty jobs in the next four years in an attempt to achieve a positive result of two to three million euros annually. This money is needed to keep a healthy reserve in its books, announced financial director Peter Badoux of VHL to its staff in Wageningen on 9 February.

Badoux made the rounds of the branches in Velp, Wageningen and Leeuwarden this week to look into a difference of opinion between the management and the participational council (MR). The management had warned - in mid 2009 - of the threat of a budget deficit of two million in 2010. The MR considered this far-fetched, and reported just before Christmas that a breakeven position for 2010 is expected. The MR appears to be right at first sight. VHL suffered a smaller loss of two hundred thousand in 2009, and Badoux expects to turn this into a profit of four hundred thousand in 2010. 'And that's just a conservative estimate'.
Own capital funds
The real problem is that the applied sciences university has too little capital of its own: a mere six million euros on an account balance of fifty million. 'That ought to be fifteen million own capital funds', feels Badoux, who also points out that a loan of umpteenth millions for new buildings in Leeuwarden still has to be paid off. Another problem concerns the short-term liabilities, which are much higher than income in the short run. 'If everyone demands his money, we would be bankrupt.' This turn of events doesn't take place in practice, Badoux adds. 'But we must make cash in the coming years. We have invested a lot in buildings, but bricks alone can't foot the bills.'
These bricks are a sensitive subject for the Wageningen branch of the applied sciences university. Housing in the Forum costs VHL 1.4 million euros a year, twice as much as the housing costs at its old location in Deventer. Badoux too finds this excessive. 'A housing burden of 1.4 million for six hundred students shouldn't be allowed. I hear Wageningen UR say: the Velp branch is coming to Wageningen. I would then say: Wageningen can also go to Velp', he proposes.
Staff departments
The management of the applied sciences university wants to cut costs, but not at the expense of education. It wants to downsize Training and Consultancy from 38 to 27 staff positions. A provision of 1.65 million euros has been budgeted for this matter. Furthermore, the staff departments of the applied sciences university (finance, personnel affairs, ICT, communication) will have to lay off 20 of the 117 workers. These departments can increase efficiency by better coordination with Facilities and Services of Wageningen UR, proposes an advice committee led by Peter Booman, head of Facilities and Services.
Study programmes
Furthermore, nine other jobs can be cut down within the study programmes, says Badoux. He wants to move towards a new budgeting system in which income and responsibilities can be attributed internally to the different programmes as much as possible. Based on this, he will establish achievement models for the programmes, going by the ratio of one teacher to twenty students. Discussions will take place on how to reduce superfluous courses. However, Badoux wants to give programme directors who are understaffed more room to appoint their own employees.
Badoux does not consider this a reorganization, something he wants to avoid getting into. The financial director is not advocating forced retrenchment. The applied sciences university has reserved money to help excess employees find other jobs through outplacement. The programme directors will be involved in carrying this out. The MR has yet to comment on the plan.