On 20 June, staff of Van Hall Larenstein get to give their verdict on the question of whether the applied sciences university should continue to be part of Wageningen UR. In advance of this discussion, Resource took an informal poll of staff opinions.
International Agribusiness & Trade, Wageningen
'I don't want to vote at all! This is not a netball club, it's a professional organization. You draw up a policy and you stick to it. Of course we should stay in Wageningen UR. It will make it a lot easier to organized interchange between academic and professionally oriented degree programmes, and give staff the option of more than one career path. Under the auspices of Wageningen International, doors open that do not usually open. The criticism is justified that not enough is done with that at present. But guys, just look at yourselves - nothing happens if you just sit at your desks. And also, what is the alternative? I haven't heard a plan B for VHL, except that it should go back to being the way it was 20 years ago. Wageningen UR is like the EU: it gets the blame for everything.'
Animal Management, Leeuwarden
'I don't see the advantages for an applied sciences university in being part of this organization. We can certainly work together, that always went fine in the past, but now there is too much emphasis on management rather than on results. Unfortunately, nice initiatives from the shop floor often don't get off the ground because people are too busy looking at the boss. I look at my boss, he looks at Ellen, she looks at Aalt. But Aalt is too preoccupied with Princess Maxima. As a teacher, I should be more important to Aalt that Princess Maxima.
I wouldn't find this such a problem if we paid more attention to the opportunities we have. Teaching internships, bringing the entire WUR-wide field of work into the degree programmes, a new programme such as Urban Ecology, for which we already have all the necessary expertise... There are so many possibilities. The only thing is, I don't get the impression Wageningen is very eager to have us. And you cannot compel people to collaborate.'
Animal Management, Leeuwarden
'When they started this investigation, I thought, 'Is this really necessary? Why do we put the collaboration with Wageningen UR under fire, when we need to sort out a lot of internal issues at VHL?' Strictly speaking, the problems with collaboration were inside VHL - it was going badly. Now I think the main purpose of this investigation was as a lightning conductor; a common 'enemy' - in inverted commas because Wageningen UR is not an enemy to me - makes it easier to clear the air inside VHL. When we started collaborating with Wageningen UR in 2004, I thought it was great. I still feel that way, because it has given us a terrific working environment. I do think the whole Animal Management programme should stay in Leeuwarden, though. After five years, it is time for some clarity on that point.'
Forest and Nature Management, Velp:
'I am in favour of unscrambling the merger, but I also in favour of collaboration with Wageningen UR. It is highly desirable to continue and expand that collaboration, but then as equal partners. VHL has too little clout, and we are dominated by Wageningen UR. I don't believe anything will be done with the recommendations of the working groups. I have little faith in the puppets who have to do the implementation. My confidence in the management has not been restored over recent months. I think the 'reappointment' of Ellen Marks, which she says is not an official reappointment, is typical. How am I to interpret her explanation in terms of the transparency promised in January?'
Land en Water Management (LWM), Velp
'I find the whole discussion about unscrambling the merger extraordinary. It stops abruptly just at the point when it is time we turned outwards in search of alliances in which we can create excellent degree courses. Of course there are all sorts of practical matters than could be improved, but I reckon we've known what they are for a while. The unscrambling idea preoccupies the three layers of management above me, but mainly between themselves. There are loads of opportunities in the field of hydrology, my subject. Our degree programme LWM, used to have a very good reputation, as did the university and other institutions involved. It would be very good to bring back the old quality in a modern form! That is perfectly possible from a basis at the university and in DLO. In short: get on with it and get implementing.'
Garden and Landscape Design (T&L), Velp
'I don't know yet. My decision depends on the presentation. I was in the education working group because I am in favour of more collaboration with Wageningen UR, and I hope our plans can go ahead. But you do not have to belong to Wageningen UR to collaborate with it - just look at Den Bosch applied sciences university. My choice will hang on whether I have confidence in what people tell me during the presentation. In the past the management has acted unwisely, for example in the appointment of the director of the T&L programme. The question for me is whether they have learned their lessons from the past.'
Resie Oude Luttikhuis
Animal Husbandry, Wageningen
'I am voting for the collaboration with Wageningen UR. When we first merged eight years ago I was against. But they went ahead with the decision. Now I think it's too late to go back on it. It is a delusion to imagine we could go it alone as an applied sciences university. There will have to be some changes though. Confidence needs to be restored and the differences in funding between VHL, the university and DLO must be taken into consideration. I feel the lack of clear representation standing up for VHL's interests on the executive board and the supervisory board. Even though it does happen on an individual level, there is too little systematic input to get cooperation off the ground. I hope that this is going to be worked on. On the positive side, I have the feeling there is now renewed energy to work together to get things moving.'
Linda van der Nat and Albert Sikkema