If the Dutch Parliament has anything to do with it, ‘green’ (agricultural) education will move from the Ministry of Economic Affairs to the Ministry of Education. On 17 November, a majority voted in favour of a motion proposing this. However, Wageningen University hopes the government will reject the idea.
Paul van Meenen, the D66 (liberal) MP who submitted the motion, thinks the Education ministry would solve Wageningen’s funding issues. ‘The Ministry of Economic Affairs can’t deal properly with the growth in green education. There are no longer any good reasons for treating green education as a special case.’
The VVD (conservative) party, which helped the motion achieve a majority, agrees. ‘In the past, the ministry had a lot of agricultural expertise, but the added value provided by its civil servants in the collaboration between education, research and the private sector has become much less in recent years,’ claims MP Anne-Wil Lucas.
But Wageningen UR continues to think ‘that the current system offers the best basis for further improving green education and research,’ according to the Executive Board in a statement. The organization is worried that the Ministry of Education knows less about green education. It would also cost a lot of money to adapt all the systems and the education funding problems would still not be solved. Spokesman Simon Vink: ‘Given the current funding conditions, the university would move to the Ministry of Education with a shortfall. More money is needed for green education, regardless of where it comes from. And to achieve that, you need to change the funding conditions. That is the real problem.’ The university thinks that it would be easiest if Economic Affairs were to use the same system for direct government funding as the Education ministry.
Cees Veerman, a former minister of Agriculture and the man behind Wageningen UR, also thinks a transfer to the Education ministry would not be wise. ‘The substantive guidance from the Ministry of Economic Affairs regarding agriculture and nature has deteriorated in recent years. A transfer to the Ministry of Education would not be a good idea as that would only erode the agricultural expertise further still.’ He is calling on the Prime Minister, Mr Rutte, to prevent the move.
The Cabinet now has to say what it will do with the motion. It may do so in early December when the Lower House debates the agricultural budget for 2016.