Eleventh faculty research begins
Sander de Rouwe, a CDA representative in the Frisian provincial executive council, became the portfolio holder for Education and Knowledge in the province following March elections. He holds the files for UCF and the RUG’s plans for an eleventh faculty in Leeuwarden in his hands, and he has reached out to Gerrit de Jong, a former member of the Dutch national audit office, to conduct an independent review of them.
Crunching the numbers
The review will include crunching the numbers on the financial projections and how likely the campus is to be tenable in the future. ‘We want to avoid being a temporarily rich province that invests the public’s money into something that turns out not to last forever’, rep. De Rouwe says.
De Jong has already begun work on the review. Although a similar evaluation was conducted about the first phase of UCF, rep. De Rouwe still feels that further research into this plan specifically is necessary. ‘The core of the UCF phase one evaluation was that they should do more and should have more of a commitment from everyone. What there is now is the offer from the RUG on one side and the province’s questions on the other, and we’re trying to find a middle road that feels fair to everyone.’
25 million euros
Part of finding that middle road is confirming what the contribution of the involved parties – the province of Friesland, the RUG and the municipality of Leeuwarden – will be. Recently, De Vries told the municipality of Leeuwarden that the RUG is requesting 25 million euros from the province of Friesland to finance the transformation from UCF into an eleventh faculty over the next ten years.
‘That will pay for 15 PhDs, 10 masters programmes and the University College, and that will be 2.5 million euros a year’, De Vries says. In return for that investment, the province is calling for the RUG to accept the risk for that 25 million euros if the endeavour is not financially sound after ten years. ‘If the assumptions are not right and students don’t come, then that’s their investment.’
De Vries understands that demand from the province is a form of insurance: ‘It’s a structural guarantee that the RUG will be in the city for a longer period’, he says. ‘Otherwise, from the provincial side, they would have to question why are they doing it.’
‘Little to no delay’
The evaluation by De Jong should cause ‘little to no delay’ because it is a one-man operation, according to rep. De Rouwe. The evaluation should be completed by the end of August, at which point the provincial council can decide whether to proceed with the plans and the financing.
A more concerted effort will be made to keep the municipality of Leeuwarden involved in the negotiations from now on, rep. De Rouwe says. The municipality representative responsible for education is CDA member Thea Koster, and her task in the coming months is to prepare a summary of how the money that UCF received in its first phase was spent. A portion of it came from subsidies of the Leeuwarden Student City initiative, which is meant to be spent on improving the academic climate in the city. Her report should also be completed by the end of August.
If De Jong’s evaluation is completed on time, there should not be any delays in the eleventh faculty plans, De Vries says. However, if it takes longer than the projected August deadline, that could cause a delay due to the NVAO accreditation process for master’s typically taking a year.
Not waiting around
But while De Jong’s analysis is being done, De Vries isn’t waiting around. ‘I’m still going ahead with the development and preparation for accreditation with the Groningen faculties for three master’s programmes’, namely Dairy Management, Tourism and Public Administration.
De Vries says that he is positive about how the evaluation will go. ‘I think that Sander de Rouwe is a smart politician with experience in The Hague, and I can understand when a new person joins the executive provincial council that he would want a second opinion.’
Rep. De Rouwe also sounds positive. ‘I hope that it works out and that it will be a strong faculty that has a future’, he says. ‘I hope that a collaboration with the RUG is something that Friesland can benefit from.’