D66 hopes that OCW will soon intervene in case of a large flexible layer and intimidation at the university

News | Editors

June 17, 2022 † According to D66, it is too much to say that the Minister can do nothing about the large flexible layer at the universities, the pressure on PhD students and the uncertain work climate. This leads to poor education and research, and therefore D66 is happy with a controversial new bill that makes intervention possible.

Paul van Meenen emphasized in the debate that the Minister now has no instruments to intervene against existing abuses at the universities.

The two Ministers of Education, Culture and Science want to introduce a new set of instruments to be able to intervene earlier in the event of abuse in education. For example, administrators and supervisors may receive an administrative instruction earlier and, for example, be cut off from the state subsidy if there is still an abuse, as the supervision finds. Directors or supervisors may also be dismissed if there is reasonable suspicion of maladministration.

Minister will soon be able to dismiss directors junk

Prior to this debate, however, the umbrella organization Universities of the Netherlands has opposed this bill. According to the UNL, this comprehensive set of instruments is a threat to academic freedom and even opens the door to Hungarian states where the government has a strong grip on academic education. Like the Council of State, the UNL fears that this minister or his successors will make a decision to dismiss a director too lightly.

The hall was divided. Part of Parliament agrees with the UNL’s criticisms, including GroenLinks, PvdA, PVV, SGP and CU, which also have concerns about the academic freedom of the institutions.

Lisa Westerveld from GroenLinks wanted to see if employee participation should not be given more powers before taking these steps. In addition, Westerveld shares UNL’s criticisms. “In higher education, it is deliberately arranged in such a way that the institutions have a lot of space. We also have NVAO, with panels composed of people from higher education; experts who look at the quality and whether a course meets its own goals. Therefore, I wonder if this bill is not a violation of higher education. ”

There is a lot of bad management in universities

Paul van Meenen from D66 disagrees with GroenLinks and argues that there are plenty of examples of the intervention of the Minister being necessary. “It surprises me a little, because I think: it’s not about what the students, for example, should know or be able to, or about what teachers at a university can say to their students? This is about poor management. It’s about uncertainty. ”

“There is no way to intervene now. It’s too crazy to put into words, is it not? I can give countless examples of that. Perhaps even more so in higher education, where, for example, PhD students are tough “the pressure, where there is no safe climate within certain institutes, but where nothing is done at all. And that is what this law is about: that there is now finally a set of instruments to intervene.”

According to Van Meenen, this has nothing to do with academic freedom. “You can not say that academic freedom is a freedom and then hide bad leadership or insecurity behind and make it immovable? Mrs Westerveld can not seriously wish that, can she? ”

Many PhD students long for intervention from the Minister

According to the D66 member, there are probably PhD students at the universities waiting for administrative intervention from the Minister. “Because I think there are a lot of people in those institutions who long for a moment when the government finally finds something about insecurity, about PhD students being pressured, etc ..”

Harm Beertema (PVV) believes that it goes too far for universities to fall under this law. However, he has no objections to higher vocational education falling under this law, for the sake of events from (recent) past. “A few universities used were not a model for accuracy either. I am thinking of the diploma fraud at Inholland at the time, of the often irresponsible scale increases, of failed real estate projects and most recently the flashy festival with performances by all sorts of invaluable artists at Avans Højskole. The money is apparently splashing against the foot panels there. As far as we are concerned, there is much more to say about control of basic education and especially of MBO and HBO. ”

But Beertema would like to make a distinction for the universities, because the Minister can already now dismiss supervisors at the public universities. “In addition, the universities are accredited in a very careful way by NVAO, which also operates bilaterally. It gives me an extra incentive to take our own quality assurance very seriously. ” In addition, the PVV also has concerns about academic freedom.

Do not abuse academic freedom

Van Meenen also hoped to change Beertema’s opinion. “Can it not be that academic freedom is ultimately a freedom to do as one sees fit as a director? It’s about drivers. It is not about the freedom of scientists. They can do what they want and explore what they want. What ultimately matters here is that we have the opportunity to intervene if it arises. ”

As an example, Van Meenen used the large flexible shell in teaching, which Beertema had previously criticized. “You yourself mentioned the example of the flexible shell. If that is the case anywhere, it is in universities where perhaps just under half can still get a permanent position. You have to find something like that, right? It also creates insecurity. It also results in poor education and research. ”

Habtuma de Hoop (PvdA) and Roelof Bisschop (SGP) also called for universities to be exempted from this law and proposed an amendment to amend the law on this point.

Suspicion of poor management at a university

Van Meenen wondered aloud what the minister should do about intimidation. »There is a suspicion of poor management at a university. For example, it may be about the safety of employees. This can be financially poor management. It could be about intimidation, etc. It all happens. †

According to Van Meenen, scientific research has nothing to fear from intervening in cases of poor management by administrators. “What should that research be about the Minister sitting on his hands and saying, ‘Unfortunately, I have to pass this bad management, because scientific research is also being carried out in that direction?’

The answer was given by Dennis Wiersma, Minister for Primary and Secondary Education, who also spoke on behalf of Minister Dijkgraaf.

We continue to stand for academic freedom

Wiersma stressed that this bill does not concern academic freedom. “To be clear: in the bill, we will of course continue to stand for academic freedom. If, for example, criticism is made in a scientific study, this will not lead to “mistreatment” and can therefore not be a basis for the use of an emergency order. The same applies to autonomy in higher education. Of course, we also guarantee these. An urgent order only affects administrative matters in an extraordinary situation. ”

According to Wiersma, this law must make it possible to intervene urgently in cases of poor management, also at universities. “The argument for doing this here too is that you must also have the opportunity in higher education in the extraordinary situations where an urgent appointment is necessary. So it’s not urgent at the moment. ”

As the debate continued until very late in the evening and there were still many technical questions about the bill, the debate will continue at a later date.

Leave a Comment