News of the week 51

What's happened this week? A pay-per-course pilot, private funds for Yantai, bad English and more. 

Payment per course

VVD and PvdA members of the House of Representatives have proposed that university students be able to pay per course. Student union LSVb and the University of Amsterdam (UvA) are in favour, and the system will be tested at UvA and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences next year. Student parties say the change would offer more freedom and support for personal development, but wonder about the financial consequences.

Education minister Bussemaker also questioned suggestions to base university funding on enrollment numbers. All faculties at the RUG are switching over to learning communities, which would not work well with the proposed pay-per-course system.

Private funds for Yantai  

In the budget for Yantai, the RUG board has set aside 500,000 euros for 2015 and 2016. This money is for preparatory work and travel costs, among others. It comes from private funds because the RUG cannot use the annual government financing it receives for research and education.

Details of the private funds are unclear, but they will be coming from so-called ‘participating interests’. The money likely originates from the remainder of the RUG’s ‘third income stream’, which is money for contract-based education and research for businesses or institutes who effectively buy expertise at the university.

‘Teachers speak bad English’

Research by the students’ union LSVb has shown that 57 per cent of students are distracted by their teachers’ poor English, affecting content in lessons. Nationally, the number of master’s degrees offered in English has increased from 64 to 80 per cent in the last four years. However, the language level of teachers has not increased accordingly.

Offering a programme in English should be considered carefully on the basis of added value, not prestige, and that teachers should receive more training. A hearing about English in higher education took place in the House of Representatives last week.

Last minute Elsevier agreement

An agreement has finally been reached between Dutch universities and Elsevier to make 30 per cent of Elsevier journals freely available in 2018. Elsevier initially said the transition would be too expensive and fast, despite other large publishers having made arrangements to move towards open access.

The Dutch university association VSNU is satisfied with the deal as it provides a sustainable transition to open access. RUG president Sibrand Poppema is also pleased. The agreement has not yet been signed, but it comes just in time: otherwise, thousands of academic journals would have been made inaccessible after January 1st.

‘Do more for refugees’

The RUG has stated their dedication to actively support refugee students, but the staff faction of the University Council feels this is not enough. While the RUG contributes to many foundations and, together with the Hanze University of Applied Science, has started a preparatory university course, university leadership is now calling upon staff to submit ideas to do more to student counselor Ineke Jansen, a contact person for organisations for refugee students.

Not everyone agrees with the initiative: Lijst Sterk wants to keep the current policy, claiming that refugee student numbers have not increased.