Science - March 11, 2004

Head of polytechnic council gives anniversary speech

The difference between polytechnics and universities is artificial and should be given up. Universities should follow the example of polytechnics and concentrate again on education. Dutch universities focus too much on research at the moment.

This was the main message of the president of the Netherlands Association of Universities of Professional Education, Professor Frans Leijnse, in the speech he gave on the occasion of the 86th anniversary of the founding of Wageningen University. According to Leijnse universities are too fixated on their performance in the world of international research. The Dutch public, however, is not interested in this. They want well-educated knowledge workers. “The fact that seven of the thirteen universities in the Netherlands are among the top twenty research universities in Europe, or the fact that this country scores highly in international citations indexes for the natural sciences, makes little impression on policy makers. It may be good for the international reputation of researchers, and the university managers, but it is not what a rapidly changing society and economy need. We need well educated and flexible knowledge workers, and universities that can produce these.” One of Leijnse’s themes was that the polytechnics, or Universities of Professional Education as they are called, have taken up the educational role that universities have neglected for the past few decades.

Leijnse also made a plea for getting rid of the difference between universities and polytechnics, citing the example of Great Britain. All polytechnics acquired university status in that country in 1992.

Korné Versluis