Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes
Opening academic year 2019
MAASTRICHT. He is worried, said Maastricht University president Martin Paul, not only in his speech during the opening ceremony of the academic year, but again during the closing session. About the budget shifts that the 'Van Rijn committee' has in mind – more money for sciences at the expense of languages, humanities and the arts – and about the persisting rumours that the government wants to curtail the internationalisation activities of universities. ‘Dark clouds’, he called them. In Leiden, rector Carel Stolker lashed out even more harshly.
Minister of Education Van Engelshoven was a guest there, but that didn't stop Stolker from stating to the Financieele Dagblad that her policy was “simply disastrous”. Other rectors and chairpersons of executive boards informed newspaper NRC that they didn't agree with the cabinet's plans. “Van Rijn's plan is at odds with reality,” says Karen Maex, rector of the University of Amsterdam (UvA).
Van Engelshoven referred to Van Rijn's plan during the opening ceremony in Leiden as ‘emergency repairs’. “Tree on the train tracks, hole in the road: that's really the category you should be thinking of.” A couple of hundred metres further along at the alternative opening ceremony - a protest action by WO in Actie (‘higher education in action’) - an appeal for her resignation was made. “We don't want a minister who wants to destroy higher education,” said UvA professor and WO in Actie leader Rens Bod, “we want a minister who will actually stand up for higher education. We don't want a minister who lets the work pressure get completely out of hand, but a minister who fights work pressure.”
During the ceremony in Theater aan het Vrijthof, Martin Paul stated that Maastricht University supports WO in Actie and that they will do everything possible to “maintain the healthy and fair balance between the various disciplines at our university”. The fact that the rest of the afternoon was a demonstration of what the UM had to offer in the field of sciences, did not detract anything from that.
In addition, he emphasised the importance of internationalisation and advised the Netherlands to take a good look at “the pragmatic and extraordinary manner in which the UM deals with the many possibilities that Europe offers.” Something that the university will not stop doing, whatever news comes from The Hague. “The UM will continue to opt for a cross-border approach.”
This is expressed, among others, in the YUFE (Young Universities for the future of Europe) collaboration, which will make the UM the “first truly European university, a university focussed on the people and its social mission and responsibility”.
Paul also feels that universities and provincial governments should work more closely together, but pointed out that one should continue to look beyond borders, especially in Limburg, “a Dutch province that shares more of its borders with Belgium and Germany than with the rest of the Netherlands”.