Nieuws - 8 september 2010

‘Wageningen should not come under the education ministry’

Dutch MP Alexander Pechtold argues for a merger of the ministries of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV), Economic Affairs (EZ) and Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (VROM). And that is where Wageningen belongs.

Alexander Pechtold: 'You are an example for other knowledge institutions'.
‘Our problem in the Netherlands is that we cannot make choices. We find everything and everyone important. So we have nine ministries that divide 2 billion euros between them for stimulating innovation. That has to cover 13 themes, 120 institutes and more that 40 programmes. That doesn’t work.’
So said D66 party leader Pechtold at the opening of the academic year last Monday in the aula. He believes that educational institutions make the same mistake, with the positive exception of Wageningen UR. ‘The Netherlands does not have too many universities, but it does have too many universities all wanting to do the same things. I would like to see the universities choosing a profile. You are an example of this for other knowledge institutions in the Netherlands and in Europe.’
The D66 leader also praised Wageningen’s strong links with industry and society. For these reasons, he said afterwards, Wageningen should not be brought under the umbrella of the ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OC&W).

What is going to happen to LNV?
In times of big spending cuts, it is inevitable that the government tightens its own belt, and LNV will not be carrying on as a separate ministry. One of the ideas that came up during the negotiations on a ‘purple coalition’ was an environment-related cluster of LNV, VROM and EZ.’
And where does Wageningen fit in best?
‘I must say that not everyone at the negotiating table was aware of Wageningen’s special position. I feel that must remain a unique position, we have to go on appreciating the Wageningen focus. So, not to OC&W.’
Did you hear the vuvuzelas when you arrived?
‘Yes, briefly. A good-humoured demonstration, which I think goes very well with a gathering of this kind. I do think though, that you should look beyond the question of salaries. The supply of bright sparks with new ideas is falling. It is precisely now that we need excellent education and excellent research. We must have a shared ambition to improve the quality.’
(r) Gaby van Caulil