Friesland plans progressing

During the university council meeting on Thursday, President Poppema emphasised that the plans to develop University Campus Fryslan into an eleventh faculty of the RUG are coming along rapidly.

‘We discussed the business plan with the province of Friesland and the municipality of Leeuwarden last week and we have come a long way’, Poppema told the council. Gerrit de Jong completed an independent analysis of the eleventh faculty plans earlier this month, and CDA representative Sander de Rouwe described the report as ‘positive yet critical.’

But the question of whether or not students will enrol at the planned faculty remains as negotiations continue. ‘In general, for the university and our faculties, there is one big risk, and that risk is: will the students come?’, Poppema said.

The existing University College Groningen’s enrolment numbers have been underwhelming this year with only 30 new students registering, despite the faculty’s goal of recruiting around 100 new students. When approached about the enrolment numbers this week, eleventh faculty dean Jouke de Vries had no comment on the lack of growth of the University College Groningen and what the impact of that could be on the eleventh faculty plans.

Finding housing

Once the business case has been agreed upon, the next step would be to assess potential locations for housing for students and staff in Leeuwarden. ‘There are up to seven locations that we will look at, and by mid-October we hope to have narrowed that down to two serious options. In December, we should be able to make a definitive choice’, Poppema reported.

As for governance of the faculty, Poppema reiterated that it is a faculty of the RUG and that dean Jouke de Vries will therefore be accountable to the board of directors, who will in turn be accountable to the advisory board and the university council.

Unusual status

Despite that assurance, Bart Beijer of the personnel faction still questioned the implications of the unusual status of the eleventh faculty: ‘It is supposed to be a faculty with academic programmes from other existing faculties. It seems that such an arrangement could lead to the curriculum committees having a say in what is happening in a different faculty.’

Poppema said that such a possibility is being taken seriously since the plans are progressing. ‘That means that discussing it with the relevant faculties is important. We have to see how we can do that.’

The RUG will not be the only party involved in governance of the faculty, either. ‘Friesland also very much wants to have influence in the advisory board to the dean’, Poppema said. ‘The Frisian applied science schools also want to be represented since at least a portion of the students from those institutions may attend the new faculty.’

Embracing the plan

Poppema was very upbeat about the mood of the negotiations and assured the council members that the new coalition partners are embracing the plan. ‘Sander de Rouwe and Thea Koster have both had positive things to say about the plans in the Leeuwarder Courant, and we have faith that we should have more clarity about these plans around the end of September.’

One of the faculties that was named by dean Jouke de Vries as part of the potential second University College is philosophy. Dean de Vries has stated that he would like to develop a PPPE – Philosophy, Politics, Psychology and Economics – curriculum for a new residential college in Leeuwarden. Recently, the board of directors for the RUG affirmed that department’s request to look into adding a master programme in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

According to Anita Willems-Veenstra, secretary for the Philosophy department, her department’s request to add the programme is not connected to the eleventh faculty plans. ‘What will eventually be taught in Leeuwarden is still unknown.’ Dean de Vries reaffirms that the PPPE curriculum has not yet been officially approved for the second university college.