News of the week 1

What's happened in the past weeks? Extreme weather, UMCG staff no longer RUG employees, Student Portal changes and more. 

Weather woes at Zernike

On Monday, the exam hall, Duisenberg building, Kapteynborg, Mercator, Bernouilliborg and Linnaeusborg at the Zernike campus were all closed. Sleet on the high-voltage cables caused the heating systems to fail. A heat and cold storage system is used to heat the buildings on the campus, but the heating and ventilation systems kept shutting off due to problems with the power supply.

Students and staff of the Faculty of Economics and Business were advised to stay at home. The Nijenborgh building remained open, however. Test animals in the Linnaeusborg were also provided for from the back up electricity supply.

UMCG staff no longer RUG employees 

Roughly 300 UMCG employees received an unpleasant surprise before Christmas: they were informed that they are no longer RUG personnel. Nine years ago, during the establishment of the UMCG, staff members of the medical faculty were incorporated into the academic hospital. At the time, they received zero-hour contracts at the university, which granted them access to RUG services, resources and discounts.

However, the zero-hour contracts expired in December, leaving some staff without access to RUG systems. Academic staff at UMCG will retain their non-posts because their publications count in the university rankings and they are university professors or teachers.

Student Portal changes following complaints

In December, the RUG launched the new Student Portal, where Progress, Nestor, RUG information and schedules were all at the students’ fingertips. But when student party Lijst Sterk carried out a survey about the new service, they found that students felt the ‘Need to Know’ and ‘Nice to Know’ modules were annoying.

Lijst Sterk brought the complaints to the ICT department of the RUG, and now, students drag the modules elsewhere on the screen, including on mobile devices.

Canteens and restaurants taken over

RUG catering facilities have been taken over by an external business. At first, it seemed that many food service employees would lose their jobs, but the university board has decided to begin a bidding process for the catering activities.

The impacted employees have been informed about what the change means for them. Food and Drinks does not have a surplus of staff members and it is expected that everyone will keep their jobs, albeit with a potentially new employer. The RUG will also permit internal repositioning and will provide support to those looking for something outside the RUG.

RUG waiting on University College premises

The decision to relocate the University College (UCG) to Bloemsingel 1 has been postponed until the University Board can determine whether the UCG is viable. The elite programme’s feasibility is dependent upoin the number of students it can attract, technical research into whether the building is suitable and the expense of possible renovation.

The RUG wants to wait until September when student numbers will be concrete. Student political party SOG is happy with the postponement, as they feel it would be a shame to spend so much money if the numbers the coming year are insufficient once more.

‘Let businesses pay for Honours College’

Student political party Lijst Calimero has suggested permitting businesses to pay for so-called excellent interns. The money could subsequently be used to maintain the Honours College, which will no longer receive a Sirius subsidy from the government this year.

Not all Honours students are able to intern at a business and cannot be obligated to do so, but a solution needs to be found for the financial gap left by cessation of the subsidies. Rector Magnificus Elmer Sterken believes the RUG must be creative with solutions until 2018, at which point extra money should be made available.

‘No new performance agreements’

University association VSNU has announced it does not want to enter into any new performance agreements with the government, a stance the RUG supports. In 2012, the ministry of education and universities of the Netherlands agreed that seven per cent of government funding would depend on the quality of education and study success.

The RUG agreed to implement binding study advice, cultivate challenging (‘excellent’) curricula, and develop learning communities. Now, the university has chosen to focus on its own goals of internationalization, improving IT infrastructure, making fundamental research investments, furthering learning communities and encouraging students to be more active.

ProDent: Dentistry reorganisation ‘irresponsible’

Dentistry must make significant cut backs due to financial problems, but ProDent, the organisation representing dentistry students in Groningen, worries that the besieged programme will ‘go under’ if no new investments are made. The programme faces a deficit of 900,000 euros for 2015.

In particular, ProDent says that proposals to scrap ten fulltime positions to save money is ‘not realistic, achievable or desirable’. The group acknowledges that cuts have to be made, but they fear for the quality of the tuition in the programme if lay offs are made.