Organisation - January 20, 2010

Little confidence in 'VHL Ahead'

VHL staff concerned about plans for the future. The directors say they are pleased that staff are so involved.

VHL building in Leeuwarden
Not all employees are happy with the approach being used to decide on VHL's plans for the future. In a letter sent to the chair of the ‘VHL Ahead' steering group, the director Ellen Marks, 39 staff members of the Leeuwarden Animal Management and Coastal and Marine Management programmes expressed their concern. Four working groups under the umbrella term ‘VHL Ahead' are drawing up plans for improving VHL's position in the market, the teaching, quality in its daily business and human resource policy.
Irritation
The criticism of communications stands out. The letter states that ‘the one-sided approach of putting information on the intranet and the organization of meetings at short notice during teaching periods have led to considerable irritation among staff'. The letter writers also complain about a lack of substantiating evidence and information. For example, assumptions such as 37 per cent overhead are not backed up with figures, nor have the directors given more information about the financial situation at the University of the Applied Sciences since they themselves sounded the alarm in July 2009.
Besides, they feel the decision-making process is opaque. Questions are raised by the flexible deployment of lecturers referred to in the plans and the letter writers feel that ‘the teaching programmes are being thwarted in their ambitions' by VHL Ahead. The initiators do not wish to give an explanation of their criticisms. They call the letter, which was sent on 15 December, an internal matter and prefer to wait to see how Ellen Marks responds.
Unrest about VHL Ahead is not confined to Leeuwarden. The committee for the Garden and Landscape Design teaching programme in Velp has written a critical letter too. And the employees' consultative body is also looking at VHL Ahead. It is on the agenda for the meeting of the joint employees' consultative council on 27 January.
Input
Ellen Marks, the VHL director, thinks it is a good thing that the staff are demonstrating their involvement. ‘They are showing that they want to have some input and we are naturally keen to take them up on that. Where necessary, we are providing background information to answer a number of their questions. There are some questions that we will only be able to answer in the course of the process.'
Improvements have already been made in the communication, according to Marks. For example, the teaching programme committees and students have received an invitation for a meeting on 9 February. There are also activities planned throughout March, with a VHL-wide conference on 26 March.

Re:act