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Carel Stolker, rector magnificus of Leiden University, believes the relationship between politicians and universities is at a low point.
Carel Stolker: "We are not going to hide our view that the minister's policy is simply disastrous." (Photo: Universiteit Leiden)

Carel Stolker, rector magnificus of Leiden University, believes the relationship between politicians and universities is at a low point.

Lees dit artikel in het Nederlands.

Stolker has directed some harsh words towards Minister of Education Van Engelshoven, who he received as a guest at the university earlier today.

The minister was at Leiden University today to give a speech marking the opening of the new academic year, but this did not prevent Mr Stolker from expressing fierce criticism of government policy.

‘We have invited the minister to be here, and naturally she must be accorded the respect that her position dictates,’ said Stolker in the Financieele Dagblad. ‘But equally, we are not going to hide our view that her policy is simply disastrous.’

‘It has almost even led us to fall apart’

‘I feel that politics and higher education have become estranged from each other,’ he added. ‘I’ve never known a time when relations were this bad – particularly given the favourable economic situation.’ Mr Stolker made broadly similar comments in NRC Handelsblad.

The relationship between broad and technical universities has also been under pressure, says Stolker. "It has almost even led us to fall apart as VSNU (The Association of Universities in the Netherlands, ed)." The reason was the report of the Van Rijn committee of May this year, which recommends transferring money from the broad universities to the technical universities. “The Dutch universities work together a lot. But if you are going to take money away from one and give it to the other without proper argumentation, then it will be complicated to keep working together. "

‘Double feeling’ at TU Delft
TU Delft announced in May that it was also not happy with this part of the report. A spokesperson spoke of a "double feeling". “It is great that some of our problems are alleviated, but it is worrying that this will lead to problems for others. We understand the concerns of general universities. Hopefully the way will be taken to extra resources instead of a redistribution of current resources. "

The lack of investment in higher education, the cutbacks, the increasing workload; all of this is a reason for a protest by WOinActie, also on 2 September in Leiden, a stone's throw from the official opening. The campaign group wants universities to be given an additional 1.15 billion euro to reduce the workload and maintain the quality of education and research. They also want previously proposed spending cuts to be taken off the table.

The opening of the academic year has traditionally been an occasion when university managers and activists express their thoughts to politicians.

HOP (Bas Belleman), Delta (Saskia Bonger)

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