Academic staff: “Work pressure doesn’t appear to be less, but more”

Academic staff: “Work pressure doesn’t appear to be less, but more”

Urgent appeal during University Council meeting


MAASTRICHT. How is that possible? A lot more academic staff (about 150 FTEs) has been hired, the UM ends this year with a positive result (provisional estimation: 3.8 million) on its budget, and yet the high pressure of work is undiminished. This was the urgent appeal by the academic staff section during the latest University Council meeting.

The subject came up at the end of October during a discussion about the university finances for the period January-August 2021. “We see no signs of this prosperity on the work floor,” was the general feeling from the academic staff section. What’s more: the work just appears to increase, said Katlijn Haesebrouck. That is exactly the impression that council member Mark Govers gets when he looks around. Haesebrouck pointed out that it was even suggested to some colleagues who don’t get around to doing research, to take a week of their holidays to do so. Then they wouldn’t have to answer e-mails from students.

Can we not use some of the money that is left to accelerate matters, academic staff council member Jenny Schell wondered?

Also, who actually benefits from the money from the National Education Programme, the council wanted to know. That is the support package from the government for Dutch education as compensation for the COVID-19 measures: a total of 8.5 billion, almost 20 million for the UM. That, however, does not appear to be spent on reducing the pressure of work: “The largest part is being used to extend the appointments of postdocs and PhD candidates who experienced a delay in their research due to COVID-19,” Ruud Bollen, director of Finance explained. That was determined by the ministry.

The Executive Board understood the frustration. Rector and now President Rianne Letschert: “A working group led by [Psychology dean] Harald Merckelbach is dealing with the adaptation of the standard hours (how much time is a lecturer given for example to supervise a master’s thesis, ed.) and the shortening of the academic year. Work pressure is a complex problem. It takes time.” The fact that it proves difficult to fill vacancies – a national problem, said the vice president of the Executive Board, Nick Bos – doesn’t help either.

The council members are not going to elaborate on their comments at this stage, they agreed collectively. They will wait on the discussion of the 2022 budget.

Author: Riki Janssen

Photo: Shutterstock

Tags: work pressure,university council,instagram

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