Wageningen, like all other universities, refuses to cooperate in a study into the role of participational structures performed by the Dutch Court of Audits. The general fear is that the study will be biased.
The auditors want to know whether the influence of participational bodies on the budget of the universities has indeed increased, now that the government has increased their authority. One example thereof is that councils now must agree with the outlines of the budget.
A lot of money is involved, especially in current times. The basic study grant has been abolished and, anticipating these cutbacks, the educational institutions should annually spend an additional two hundred million euros. Participational councils complained that they have seen little of these investments; something that was denied by the educational institutions.
The universities do not see the merit of the study. They understand the benefit of such a study into the new relations between the administration and participational bodies, but they are indignant about the chosen approach.
This is because the Court of Audits wants to try a new method of working with ‘civilian auditors’. Members of the participational councils would have to perform part of the study themselves.
This should not be allowed, say the universities. You cannot reasonably ask of the lecturers and students that are member of the participational councils to independently assess their own functioning. This would lead to a conflict of interests.
Furthermore, the Court of Audits would want to use this study to advise about new performance agreements with the Ministry of Education. The universities see absolutely no benefit in this type of new agreements, and there are plenty of committees already examining these matters. The Court of Audits should not hamper these committees.
Judging their own goods
The Court of Audits does not understand the refusals. The body does not want to judge the investments or the decision making of the individual educational institutions, writes board member Francine Giskes in a response. The members of the participational councils who would perform the study on behalf of the Court of Audits would only have to look for the information that they need for good decision making. Giskes: ‘The butcher does not judge his own good, but he looks back at the process in view of possible improvements.’