Organisation - April 14, 2010

'The market can absorb an additional study.'

A new agriculture university of applied sciences has been set up in Almere. VHL programme director sees the newcomer as a threat

Location for the new Christian agriculture university of applied sciences in Almere
A small semi-permanent building has recently arisen on an industrial terrain in Almere, While there is no signboard yet, the building will soon house the newest university of applied sciences in the Netherlands. Officially known as the Christelijke Agrarische Hogeschool (CAH) Almere, it is part of CAH Dronten. A major in Nature, Economy and Environment (part of the study programme Business Studies and Agri-business) and the study programme Applied Biology will be offered in the new academic year. Ten to twelve students have signed up so far.
Pure competition
Opinions are divided as to the need for a new university of applied sciences. Hans van Rooijen, programme director of Forest and Nature Management at VHL Velp, calls the newcomer 'pure competition'. In particular, he sees Applied Biology as a threat. 'It has the same contents as parts of Forest and Nature Management. The total number of students hasn't increased, so they would have to be divided among more places. Applied Biology is already available at the HAS Den Bosch university of applied sciences where it's booming.' Van Rooijen feels that there is no room in the market for overlapping study programmes; that would affect the quality as a whole. Simon Vink, spokesman for Wageningen UR, under which VHL falls, has less worry. 'Believe in your own strength and this strength becomes very powerful. If the market turns out to be too small, a newcomer will likely be the first to be affected.'
Michiel Drok, ecology lecturer in Almere, thinks that the market in this area is doing well. 'We talked with the sector at great length. The Forestry Board says that hundreds of jobs will be available within these five years. And that's just in one organization', adds Drok. 'Besides, the breeding sector will have another five hundred jobs. The market can absorb an additional study programme.' Besides, Drok also sees differences in content. 'Our students, for example, could write about the tick-borne disease for a publication of the Municipal and Regional Health Service. Our study programme focuses on domestication and on diseases and pestilences. These subjects are hardly found in Velp.'
City student
Drok does admit, however, that there are big overlaps in content, but the overlap is more intensive with HAS Den Bosch, which also offers Applied Biology. 'However, there are some differences. Our emphasis is on consultancy and theirs is on applied research. Furthermore, we have more contact hours.' Other than these differences, CAH Almere, like HAS Den Bosch, caters to students from its own region. VHL has hardly made any presence felt in the Almere suburbs, says information officer Merijn Sprenger. 'We don't consider VHL as a competitor', he adds. VHL thinks differently. 'The present students come from villages around the big cities', says Van Rooijen. 'But our campaign Experience the Outdoors (Beleefbuiten.nl) is intended to change that.'  

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