AYA statement on Van Rijn Report

16/07/2019
16/07/2019

We, the members of the Amsterdam Young Academy, express our deep concern about the proposed reallocations of university funding from ‘alpha’ and ‘gamma’ to ‘beta’, as recommended by the report of Commissie Van Rijn. We support our boards and the various academic organisations in their opposition to these measures, which will be especially harmful for young academics in terms of workload and career opportunities.

We fully agree with the report that, in order to remain internationally competitive as well as to meet worries regarding work load, the beta sciences need more governmental funding. However, fulfilling this need for additional funding by removing a significant part of the budget from the social sciences, medicine, and the humanities will make things worse. This divide et impera policy is unnecessary and harmful for Dutch university education and research, as well as for Dutch society at large.

The challenges that face the beta sciences are no different from those in other domains. Nor is their societal and economic importance. We therefore call upon the government to invest in all disciplines, including alpha and gamma disciplines, rather than cut their budgets. We also call upon everyone to support WOinActie initiatives that aim to show how misguided these policies are.

The main reasons why the reallocation policies of Commissie van Rijn are harmful for Dutch higher education and research are as follows:

  1. In this time of economic growth, an increase in budget would be wise and reasonable. The policies proposed will have the opposite effect: 14 out of 18 Dutch universities will see a decrease in funding. This is not only economically unnecessary, it will also lead to the destruction of knowledge capital and an even larger workload  in the alpha and gamma disciplines, which are already operating under severe strain. Students in these disciplines will also be affected.
  2. A large number of contemporary society’s biggest challenges are either primarily in the humanities and the social sciences or cannot be addressed without these disciplines: How to ensure social equality and justice in the age of disruptive technological innovations? What is our responsibility towards the natural world? How can we reconcile sustainability and economic growth? In the age of artificial intelligence, what does it mean to be human? Do the Netherlands have an identity and how does its national identity relate to that of Europe and the world? How can people of different worldviews live peacefully together in democratic societies? In order to address these questions and solve these problems, we need strong and healthy humanities research and education.
  3. The report implicitly endorses a rather outdated view on which there are clear boundaries between the sciences and other disciplines. This contradicts an ever-increasing development in Dutch academia to carry out interdisciplinary academic research in which the humanities and social sciences are often
    hardly distinguishable from the natural sciences.
  4. There is insufficient support for these disastrous policies: The University of Amsterdam, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Tilburg University, the University of Groningen, and Nijmegen University have already announced that they will not implement this policy in the coming years. More than 300 academics working in the "beta" / technical sciences in the Netherlands have also signed a declaration in which they reject this policy.
  5. Parliament has accepted these draconian measures based on incomplete and inaccurate data. The scenario as presented by Minister Van Engelshoven differs drastically from the numbers presented by the VSNU (see here). The financial reserves, which the Minister urges universities to use, is a chimera and cannot offer a structural remedy for budget cuts (see here). Good policies can be made only on the basis of factual and broadly supported picture of their consequences.

For these reasons, we wholeheartedly support the initiatives set up by WOinActie and will join the so-called True Opening of the Academic Year on September 2nd. We invite all academics to subscribe to the WOinActie list, join the public events, and share this information with their colleagues.


Amsterdam Young Academy

Rik Peels, Faculty of Humanities, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Silke Muylaert, Faculty of Theology and Religion, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Linda Douw, VU University Medical Center
Helmer Helmers, Faculty of Humanities, University of Amsterdam
Maria Weimer, Faculty of Law, University of Amsterdam

Eddie Brummelman, Research Institute of Child Development and Education, University of Amsterdam
Pieter Coppens, Faculty of Theology and Religion, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Marci Cottingham, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, University of Amsterdam
Yarin Eski, Faculty of Social Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Katinka van der Kooij, Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Ronald Kroeze, Faculty of Humanities, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Sanne Kruikemeier, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, University of Amsterdam
Ivano Malavolta, Faculty of Science, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Bram Mellink, Faculty of Humanities, University of Amsterdam
Umberto Olcese, Faculty of Science, University of Amsterdam
Shaul Shalvi, Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Amsterdam
Josine de Winter, VU University Medical Center