Organisation - June 1, 2010

Strong feelings about merger at VHL

The Executive Board demands a full merger of Van Hall and Larenstein. But the Employees' Council continues to resist. ‘Untying the knots would cost 2.5 million a year.'

Ceci n'est pas béton
The Executive Board will not accept a refusal to merge by the two institutions Larenstein and Van Hall. ‘If the Employees' Coucil votes against the merger, we will go to the arbitration committee. We are not going to carry on with an organization that has fallen apart. If you don't want to merge, OK, but then we will pull out too.' When board chairman Aalt Dijkhuizen spoke these words, feelings ran high
Among the sixty-odd staff members at Larenstein in Velp who gathered to hear what he had to say on 20 May, during the Board's strategy tour. In spite of their common name, Van Hall Larenstein (VHL), both institutions have been stalling for a couple of years on entering into a full merger. One of the sticking points is the number of degree programmes that are currently offered in both places.
Dijkhuizen delivered a long monologue outlining the necessity of a full merger. From 1 September, an executive board is only allowed to run one applied sciences university. So a merger at management level is mandatory. ‘The VHL management and the executive board are going all out to achieve the merger; we are doing our utmost. If it still doesn't happen because the employees' council says no and the arbitration committee doesn't' back us either, we will be forced to look for other partners. In Dronten, for example, they would jump at the opportunity to join is in the Dairy Campus.'
Employees' council chairman Dennis de Jager argued for a different model: two independent applied sciences institutions working closely together with the university. Dijkuizen didn't want to hear anything about such ideas. ‘Untying the knots is not an option. Going ahead with two small separate institutions goes right against the zeitgeist of collaboration and concentration, and will put their survival in grave danger.' Because it would cost a lot of money, he made clear. It would mean fifteen additional staff for facilitatory services, Dijkhuizen said , whereas a merger will make it possible to get rid of twenty staff. ‘That saves at least 2.5 million a year, which can be spent on education. Anyone who doesn't want to merge has a lot of explaining to do, to students, their parents and the outside world.'
Dijkhuizen spoke in similar vein to an audience of about 100 staff members later the same day in Leeuwarden. Emotions ran high at the meeting. One of the complainst was that Han Hardus, programme director for Animal Management, was not told at first about the plans to bring the Wageningen ‘Horse' major under Animal Management at Leeuwarden. Sloppy, admitted Ellen Marks. Hardus accused his fellow-directors of ‘playing games'. He was roundly applauded. But there was anger among the audience on other points too. Staff services have disappeared from Leeuwarden and recruitment of foreign students for Leeuwarden was to be stopped, it was claimed. 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.
Full reports on the strategy tour: