News of the Week: 36

What's happened so far this academic year? RUG seeks millions for Yantai, Legionnaire's disease in the dentistry school, UCG has too few students and more.

RUG seeks millions for Yantai

As part of a 65 million euro deficit in the plans, president Sibrand Poppema is seeking 25 million euros for the branch campus in China. The budget for the campus is confidential, but Yantai city will cover 40 million of the deficit.

Poppema did not mention names but said he is focusing on large Dutch companies, European enterprises and Chinese businesses. The Ministry of Economics Affairs is also prepared to support the plan. Poppema has approached four businesses and raised two million euros so far, and remains confident that he can raise the funds.

Legionnaire’s disease at dentistry school

thumb-TandheelkundeA case of Legionnaire’s disease was discovered at the dentistry school during a regular inspection. The school is once again fighting a safe, non-infectious case on several treatment units. Spokespeople for UMCG do not expect the treatment and academic programme to experience any delays.

Since 2012, the dentistry school has faced multiple contaminations. Legionnaire’s disease was able to develop due to failure to follow proper rinsing procedures. The RUG spent 500,000 euros to upgrade the pipes and plumbing, but in February 2013, the bacteria was detected again inside drainage mechanisms that were meant to prevent the disease.

Too few University College Groningen students

thumb-university-collegeUniversity College Groningen needed 100 first year students this academic year but only recruited 30. The low turnout is a financial blow to UCG, which also only had 30 students last year when UCG began.

In November 2014, it became clear that the financial basis of 3 million euros for the faculty wasn’t enough. UCG calculated they would need an additional 800,000 euros providing that they would get 100 students this year. The council of the University College now estimates that they will have to recruit 200 students per year to balance the costs.

Uproar over endowed professor salary

thumb-Femke-de-VriesProfessor Femke de Vries will earn more than 200,000 euros through her appointment by financial minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem to a position as a board member of the Authority of Financial Markets. The salary exceeds the 178,000 euro limit set for top-ranking officials in the public and semi-public sector.

De Vries is the first exception to this rule, which Dijsselbloom sees as justified due to her experience and the challenging nature of the position. The Dutch Socialist Party has questioned why the House of Representatives was not informed about the exemption.

Largest polar expedition ever

thumb-spitsbergenRUG instructor Maarten Loonen and a team of 55 researchers, artists, journalists and tourists have returned from their polar expedition: SEES (Scientific Expedition Egeøya Spitsbergen), a project six years in the making. The researchers spent ten days doing intensive research into the impact of climate change.

Loonen says he is eager to analyse the samples collected during the expedition. Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders recently announced that he will make an additional 600,000 euros available for polar research. Loonen thinks that will mostly go toward the RUG’s Arctic Institute but says that is not enough to properly continue research.

Heavy workload due to Yantai


Beginning this week, various departments of the Office of the University and departments within the faculties of Economics & Business (FEB) and Mathematics & Natural Sciences (FMNS) will each have 9.5 full time equivalent positions at their disposal to lighten the workload caused by preparations for the planned campus in Yantai.

Director of human resources Marion Stolp says that the extra hours could be used to hire additional staff on an hourly basis, hire temporary employees or extend the hours of current employees. The extra personnel can be utilized until 1 January.

Exam hall adding space

thumb-tentamenhalExam halls are overly full because all faculties have exams at the same time, but Property and Investment Projects (VGI) has found a solution: another room will be added to the Aletta Jacobshal with space for 600 (digital) spots. Over the next three years, the RUG will also use the Frascati building, which can accommodate 13,680 students.

The university will continue renting rooms at MartiniPlaza, which has offered to build a permanent exam space for 48,500 students at an ‘attractive’ rental price. The VGI currently estimates that the new space at Aletta Jacobshal will cost around 5 million euros.

Cellular biology breakthrough

thumb-pipetCellular biologist Ody Sibon and her group at UMCG have made a remarkable discovery regarding co-enzyme A, a material necessary for human survival. It was previously thought that the enzyme could only be created by converting vitamin B into co-A because the enzyme was ‘hidden’ between other materials and difficult to measure. Sibon’s group was able to make the enzyme visible with fluorescent material.

The researchers saw that the enzyme can be administered to human cells, which means it has potential applications such as the development of a new antibiotic and treatment of PKAN, a rare brain disease.

‘More money for research’

thumb-sterkenRector Elmer Sterken opened the academic year by emphasising the necessity of funding curiosity-driven research and letting it flourish in order to make the National Scientific Agenda successful. More than 11,000 research questions were submitted after the Agenda called for entries from citizens.

Sterken also said learning communities, flipping the classroom and the international classroom are the future of education at the RUG. Every faculty will be a Learning Community, focusing on interaction, within three years. Flipping the classroom entails students doing research at home rather than simply listening to lectures, and the international classroom utilises students’ diverse backgrounds.

Oliver Sacks passes away

thumb_oliversacksIn 2005, RUG psychology professor Douwe Draaisma became a personal friend of renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks, who passed away this weekend from cancer. Sacks became famous for his books The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Awakenings.

When Sacks visited Groningen in 2005 to give a lecture at Studium Generale, he met with Draaisma whom he saw as a kindred spirit. The two shared regular written correspondence and affection for psychology through stories. Draaisma had a deep respect for Sacks’ drive and productivity and says that the emancipatory effect of Sacks’ work was his greatest achievement.