Wetenschap - 28 februari 2002

English summary

Wageningen University to offer three new study programmes in the social sciences from September 2002. Last week, the student and employees councils agreed to plans of the university board to set up three new programmes - focusing on Communication, Health and Economic Policy-making. The university is hoping to attract more Dutch students through these programmes as studies have shown that fewer and fewer Dutch students are choosing technical programmes. By introducing more social science-focused courses, the university is also wanting to jump onto this bandwagon.

The building 'De Wereld', in the centre of Wageningen, is likely to change its function in the future. The university board would like the building to gain greater prominence through opening it up for commercial use while also maintaining its public function. Studium Generale, which would have to relocate, is concerned about preserving the public nature of this historic building. Director Sander Essers fears that the 'representative events' planned by the board to take place in De Wereld actually relate to meetings for 'big shots' instead of for student debates. Vice-chairman of the board Kees van Ast responded with agitation to this statement and found Essers' critique premature.

Fast food appears to be popular among the poorest of the poor in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. According to research by Alice Mboganie Mwangi and Hilda van 't Riet, it appears that poor inhabitants of slums, in particular, view the ready-made food that they buy and sell in the streets as a good way to fulfill their diets. It's cheap, fast and easy, they say. The problem is that the street food, like chapati or mandazi, lacks vitamin A and iron, and is not stored hygienically. This situation could be improved, both researchers assert, if local authorities respected and legalised the trade in street food.

Over half of last year's students is troubled by varying degrees of RSI (repetitive strain injury): findings from a Student Council study. Last year the university board invested two million guilders into improving the computer facilities for students towards preventing RSI. According to a committee on student computer facilities, workplaces are still far from good. Three-quarters of the students are not happy with the facilities. Paul Deneer from Wageningen University Student Affairs stated that the common computer rooms had been first in line for improvement, and that individual student workplaces will be next.

Research by Alterra shows that cleansing chemically polluted soils by planting vegetation on it is not as effective as was thought. In theory, soils polluted by heavy metals can be purified by planting vegetation such as willow trees, in combination with a chemical soil treatment. The roots should then take up the heavy metals from the soil. This method is popular in the United States. However, Dr Paul R?mkens from Alterra is warning against too much optimism, as research has revealed that much of the heavy metals are still being washed away into the groundwater. R?mkens is investigating improvements on the technology.