Nieuws - 24 mei 2010

Leeuwarden resists merger too

If the merger between VHL and Wageningen falls through, the existence of individual institutions will come under threat. 'Because then Wageningen UR's continuous knowledge chain would fall apart.'

At the informative meeting at Van Hall Larenstein on 20 May, board chairman Aalt Dijkhuizen could have talked until he was blue in the face, but his message was far from welcome in Leeuwarden. About 100 staff members and one or two students listened to his explanation of why a merger is a necessity: cost cutting, increased efficiency, more career possibilities, more money for education. Dijkhuizen: 'We will make fools of ourselves if we don't merge. The outside world won't understand it at all.'
They see that differently in the Friesian capital. There is 'panic' there, according to fourth year student Denise Brilman, due to a fear that Leeuwarden will become nothing but an outpost of Wageningen. And yet Animal Management, with its 800-odd students, is the largest degree programme. If that goes to Wageningen too, then Leeuwarden, which now has the only animal management programme in Europe, can forget it. It became clear that resistance to a merger goes deep. And so does mistrust. Emotions ran high at the meeting. When talk turned to the other, less than unique, programmes, things got really heated. Hans Hardus, Animal Management programme director, had not been immediately informed of a plan to bring the Wageningen 'Horse' majors under Animal Management in Leeuwarden. Sloppy, admitted Ellen Marks.
In an emotional speech, Hardus accused his fellow-directors of 'playing games'. He was applauded, as was everyone who expressed criticism. 'Trust is undermined by things like this', commented teacher Monique den Heijer. Someone else described the cooperation as heavy going. 'Your priorities are in Wageningen. For us you are the problem.'
There is a lot of anger, that much is clear. Staff services have disappeared from Leeuwarden and recruitment of foreign students for Leeuwarden is said to have been stopped. Dijkhuizen promised to look into it. 'Let's stop trying to get one up on each other and put an end to all the fuss.' But the more Dijkhuizen appealed to people not to be so emotional, the more emotional they seemed to get.
This week and next week, the Executive board is doing the rounds of the organization to present its strategic plan for 2011-2014. Resource is reported on all the meetings.