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Who does education, who does research; the board wants to know

MAASTRICHT. “Let the faculty councils put pressure on their boards to come up with the figures. We are waiting on the figures too.” It was not a radical student party that launched this appeal last week during the University Council meeting, nor a dissatisfied employees’ collective; remarkably, it was the Executive Board.

Vice president of the Executive Board, Nick Bos, put the appeal out last week during the debate about the university budget for 2016. The figures that he is in dire need of are exactly the figures that the university council wants from him: how is the money that goes to the faculties divided over education and research? Council member Mark Govers: “This is about the basic process, if you want to be able to adjust, you have to know.”

Over the next four years, the UM is expected to grow by 2,000 students: from 16,800 now to 18,900 students in 2020. At least, according to the faculties’ prognoses, which have now been included in the institute’s budget. This growth must obviously be translated into an expansion of teaching staff, or the academic staff, but that is where the first snag arises. Nick Bos: “The faculties are doing too little, they are not spending the money, they have to fill vacancies.”

That was exactly how council member Dirk Tempelaar felt: “And if academic staff numbers increase, then this has to benefit those in most need, the heavy burden of teaching. The money should not all be put into Knowledge Axis (Kennis-As) projects, for example.”  

The Council made a huge point of it. Tempelaar: “With the councils’ new budgetary authority, we no longer need to request those figures, we can demand them.”

But Bos was not impressed: “Demands, well, you can demand as much as you want, but we don’t have them either. This is an organisation that is very decentralised. It is up to the faculties, and so far our questions for the figures have also remained unanswered. The Executive Board wants to see plans, when will we see which positions are filled.”

University Council chairman Herman Kingma: “That is why we are now urging the faculty councils to demand the figures from their faculty boards.” Bos supported this: “We are counting on the faculty councils to get hold of the information.”

But Kingma warned that it wouldn’t be easy: “Those boards are in turn dependent on the work floor, and that is often where the problems start, the labelling is not always correct. I know for a fact, for example, that research institute MHeNs [Mental Health and Neuroscience] has professors who are labelled 1.0 FTE for research. That is impossible, that is virtual, they always have other tasks.”

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