News of the Week: 19 Feb. – 4 March
35 million euros for research and education
The RUG is investing 35 million euros into education and research. The main focus of the funding will be to address master’s programmes, most of which fit into the research themes of Healthy Ageing, Energy and Sustainable Society. Projects within Agro & Food and Engineering will also receive funding.
The faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences is getting nearly 1.8 million euros for the development of five new master’s programmes: Environment, Clinical Forensic Psychology, Sustained Mobility, Youth and Evidence Informed Education. RUG spokesperson Riepko Buikema says the money will need a return on investment from the faculties eventually.
‘Hold the government accountable’
During a RUG symposium last week, Legal Methods professor Jan Brouwer said the Dutch government should be held accountable for violating the safety of residents through gas extraction operations in Groningen. It was the first time a professor has criticized the industry in the name of the university.
Brouwer also recommended suspending gas extraction in the highest risk gas fields, adapting the penal code to make government officials criminally liable for accidents and legally requiring the reservoirs to be filled with another substance once the gas has been removed.
The New University
A University Council meeting was interrupted last week by a sit-in by socialist youth party ROOD, despite the building being closed due to ‘risk of occupation.’ The group, calling themselves ‘The New University of Groningen’, undertook the action in solidarity with University of Amsterdam students who have recently occupied campus buildings there.
The group will speak with students on the Broerplein on Wednesday during a national day of action. They want more democracy at the University, but student members in the Council point out that the RUG is one of the first universities to include students in the Council.
From 1 January 2016, universities can reinstate the bursary system – PhD candidates who receive a grant rather than a salary for their research – thanks to an experimental programme by education minister Jet Bussemaker.
Groningen has used the system for years because bursary PhDs are one-third less expensive than normal PhDs: the RUG doesn’t have to pay employer taxes and pension funds due to their status. Bussemaker’s plan formally classifies bursary PhDs as students. One condition of Bussemaker’s project is that universities will not use it as a cost-cutting measure.
Complaints about weekend exams
The university-wide study block system led to problems during the most recent exam period, causing problems and frustration for students and staff alike. The University board and the Real Estate department are looking to add an extra exam facility, but that will not be available until 2018.
The block system also makes scheduling resits soon after the original exams difficult. Professors have to work outside of normal business hours and students have to deal with public transportation issues in the weekend.
Students should go abroad
Only 30 per cent of eligible Dutch students – 1,150 people in total – studied abroad last year. Too little flexibility in their studies, financial aid changes and a lack of promotion of study abroad opportunities make it difficult.
Students worry that going abroad may prevent them from graduating on time, and students who have to take resits can’t do them if they are already abroad. The board of directors will be addressing a letter to the faculties and exam commissions to officially encourage studying abroad and exploring an alternative approach to exams.
Organic vegetable bags
The Green Office of the RUG will soon be launching a pilot together with vegetable vendors Groentebuur and Lokaalgoud to offer organic vegetables. According to coordinator Yanike Sophie, students need to be inspired to cook and take heed of the quality of vegetables available in the region.
The pilot will charge 5 euros for a bag with vegetables for one person or 10 euros for two people. Each bag will have enough vegetables for two meals, plus some fruit. The produce will be picked up directly from the farmers by the Green Officer personnel.