Science - September 23, 2004

Overheads must be reduced by quarter

The executive board wants to reduce overhead costs of Wageningen UR by a quarter. The decision has been taken as a result of an enquiry into the extent of the support services and facilities management.

A special committee has spent the last few months making an inventory of the overhead costs of Wageningen UR. These account for over 22 percent of the total costs, which amounts to 1319 jobs. The costs are too high according to chairman of the board Aalt Dijkhuizen. ‘We can’t afford things as they stand.’ He wants to reduce by at least quarter the overhead costs of the sciences groups, the administration centre and facilities management.

‘We have to be more clever; the aim is to create more room for education and research. It is not the idea that we cut overheads so much that the various groups have to employ more people to do the photocopying. No, we have to become more efficient.’

According to the findings of the committee, which was headed by Jolanda Reintjes, the largest part of overhead costs are found by the sciences groups (57 percent), followed by facilities management (26 percent) and the administrative centre (17 percent). The executive board thinks that encouraging the sciences groups to work together more can reduce overheads. ‘Together because’ will become the guiding principle according to Dijkhuizen.

Dijkhuizen does not yet know where redundancies are likely to occur. The executive board has appointed experts to work out exactly where savings can be made. And what if twenty-five percent reductions are impossible to achieve? ‘The arguments must be very convincing. We have to force ourselves to do this. I hear complaints from all corners that we are over-organised, but I’m not so sure.’

The executive board plans to present a more detailed plan to the supervisory board and the representative bodies in October. The chairman cannot yet say whether there will be compulsory redundancies: ‘At present I am assuming that we are capable to drawing up a good plan. The only certainty we can offer is that we will be cautious and honest. It will not be a case of people who happen to be closer to the board being saved.’

The ultimate aim is that education and research at Wageningen UR will profit from overhead reductions. That will result in a bigger budget for the university, and the research institutes will be able to lower their rates for clients. ‘The aim is to strengthen our competitive position in the European market.’ / KV