Organisation - January 12, 2011

Professors to protest alongside students

Not only students, but professors too will be demonstrating on 21 January in The Hague against budget cuts in higher education. Martin Kropff will lead a special academic ceremony as chairman of the rectorate body.

The professors will don togas during the student demonstration. Led by mace-bearers, they will walk from the square (Het Plein) along the Hofvijver lake and the Spui to the Dr. Anton Philipszaal for a special meeting. There, former agriculture minister Cees Veerman will be the chief speaker and will present his vision of the future of higher education. The ceremony will be conducted by Wageningen rector magnificus Martin Kropff, who is also chairman of the Rectors' Conference of The Netherlands (Rectorencollege).
Motor of the future
In a letter, Martin Kropff has urged professors in Wageningen to take part in the professorial demonstration in The Hague. Together with other rectors, he warns in the letter of job losses at the universities. The penalty for extending study periods - which the cabinet will enforce - will lead to cuts of 370 million euros. As a result, the education budget will be reduced by about 10 percent from 2011 onwards; this will affect the jobs of several thousand university lecturers, the rectors fear. They are also afraid of the loss of several thousand PhD positions when the natural gas subsidy (FES) will no longer be given as funding for innovative research.
The rectors feel that such budget cuts will obstruct the Netherlands' ambition to strengthen its position internationally as a knowledge economy. 'We should in fact invest in knowledge development at this moment. Knowledge is the motor of the future', they write. They want to use this special event to make clear the universities' earnestness. In Wageningen, 15 of the about 90 regular professors have signed up so far.
Now or never
The Wageningen Executive Board will provide bus transport for the students. Lecturers will adjust their lessons as students prepare to skip classes.
With eighty people having signed up for the bus so far, student participation is yet to reach a high. 'Publicity has just started', says Karmijn van den Berg of the WSO. '600 people showed up at the demonstration in the market in Wageningen; we would be happy with 300 this time. We realize that this is a difficult period, with the exam week just around the corner.'
Despite this, WSO members are urging people to join the demonstration. Van den Berg: 'It is now or never. If we cannot stop this big budget cut, the quality of higher education will never be the same.'
In the meantime, more than 8000 people have signed up on Facebook for the national student demonstration. In addition, more than 6000 people have indicated that they might be present.
The student demonstration on Friday 21 January will take place from 13:00 to 15:30 hours in The Hague. Those wishing to take the bus from Wageningen can sign up at www.metdebusnaardenhaag.nl

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