Leeuwarden approves RUG/Campus Fryslân

The municipal council in Leeuwarden unanimously accepted the proposal for the RUG/Campus Fryslân on Monday evening, despite misgivings from some members.

Friso Douwstra, chairperson of the CDA faction in the Leeuwarden municipal council, says that the entire council was more or less in agreement, although some parties were more favourable than others.

‘Myself and the CDA party have been working for years to achieve this, and there’s a lot of work that goes into it, but we’re very content with this decision. We think it’s a very important step for Leeuwarden and Friesland.’

Douwstra sees the vote as approval of more than simply offering more educational opportunities in the relatively poor province. ‘As soon as you have more people studying here, the chance is greater that people will go on to work here’, Douwstra says. ‘It’s about the long-term impact on the city.’

Great opportunity

The D66 party made their misgivings known during the meeting, but faction chairperson Hilde Tjeerdema emphasizes that the party sees the RUG’s arrival in Leeuwarden as a great opportunity to improve the academic climate in the city.

Although the parties in Friesland have given their approval, the status of the bachelor programmes to be taught in Leeuwarden was much debated in recent weeks.

The plan was for the second University College to form a part of the RUG/Campus Fryslân in addition to an existing PhD platform and several master’s programmes currently offered at the existing University Campus Fryslân in Leeuwarden. But two weeks ago, RUG president Sibrand Poppema told the University Council that the second University College would only be pursued once the existing University College Groningen (UCG) was attracting enough students.


Due to UCG’s failure to grow their enrollment numbers thus far, the parties in Friesland were unwilling to make the Leeuwarden plans dependent on UCG’s success. Before the municipal council meeting last week in Leeuwarden, CDA alderperson Thea Koster discussed the matter with the RUG board of directors and it was decided that the Leeuwarden bachelor programme would be completely independent of UCG.

Tjeerdema says that the confusion about the dependent status illustrated how far the involved parties still have to go in finalizing the plans. ‘What’s been made clear is that the partnership between the RUG, the province and the municipality is still quite fragile. There seem to be different ideas about what [RUG/Campus Fryslân] is meant to become.’

As the University Council was informed last Thursday during the most recent council meeting, the now independent status of the Leeuwarden plans also means that the bachelor level at RUG/Campus Fryslân can no longer be called a University College.

Not a ‘university’

The Leeuwarden branch is now supposed to offer a bachelor broadly based on Politics, Philosophy, Psychology and Economics instead of Liberal Arts & Sciences. The academic institution will eventually be given its own name and will not be referred to as a ‘university’. The current plans were overwhelmingly approved of by the council last week.

The plans await approval by the Frisian provincial states later this month. A decision about where the programmes will be offered in Leeuwarden should also be made in December. Bachelor-level education at RUG/Campus Fryslân is scheduled to begin in September 2017.