Arts faculty in financial straits again

The financial situation of the arts faculty remains dire. The faculty is running a deficit in the millions.

If measures are not quickly taken, the faculty will end up with an operating loss of 7.8 million euros. That is unacceptable, according to the faculty council in the latest budget. ‘The results explicitly show that the financial position of the faculty is stifling.’

Last year, it was already clear that the faculty would be in debt for at least three years. At the time, the perception was that the shortfall would be in the range of several hundred thousand euros and that the faculty would be in the black by 2018. But that appears to have been underestimated: the faculty is running a deficit in the millions.

The board has not yet made known what measures will be taken to bring the faculty out of debt. The budget is being seen as impetus for serious self-reflection.

Unfair distribution

The board can name some points where it’s not going well, though. Among others, the decreased share that the faculty receives – distribution of funding among the university faculties – hasn’t helped matters.

‘Once again, we attest that the [current] financial distribution model of the RUG does not do justice to the nature and scope of the faculty, which encompasses both large and small programmes, at times heavily fluctuating inflow of students, more intensive educational methods and several relatively expensive programmes’, the board writes.

But another distribution model would be difficult, as it would mean that other faculties would receive less funding at the expense of the arts faculty.

Non-financed students

Another big problem is the number of non-financed students. Around 40 per cent of the arts students do not graduate on time, which results in the faculty having to contribute funding of its own in order to be able to teach them. The faculty wants to decrease the number of non-financed students by limiting the number of courses they can sign up for – students can do courses worth up to 60 credits.

Fewer master’s

The arts faculty has been trying to get out of the red for years by attracting more students with programmes like the broad bachelor programme for European Languages and Culture and the new Media Studies programme. But attracting students alone does not seem to be enough to ensure the financial health of the faculty. The faculty board thinks that education in the faculty should also be organised more efficiently.

‘It’s clear that the number of master’s students and master’s diplomas need to increase dramatically’, the board says. The faculty loses income because so few students choose to follow a master’s programme in Groningen, which is why the faculty wants to limit the number of master’s programmes on offer while simultaneously attracting more students through better recruitment efforts and raising the faculty’s profile.

Cheap PhDs

The faculty also wants to take part in the bursary experiment as a means to increase the number of relatively cheap doctoral degree recipients per year.

The fact that the faculty has to do something fast is beyond a shadow of a doubt. But before any action can be taken, what those measures will be must first be carefully prepared. As such, faculty board member Egon Dietrich declined to comment. ‘We will discuss the budget during the first consultation meeting with the faculty council.’