Posted on behalf of Katrin Kohnert
What do you do when science budgets stagnate? Three large Dutch universities think the answer is to intensify collaboration. They may even go as far as to merge with each other.
Speaking at the opening of the Dutch academic year on 5 September, officials of the University of Leiden, Delft University of Technology and Erasmus University Rotterdam — all located within some 40 kilometres of each other — said that creating a ‘Triumvirate of Science’ in the province of South Holland will be essential for maintaining their respective strengths.
The three institutions are ranked among the world’s top 200 universities – and among Europe’s top 60 – by the 2010 Times Higher Education World University Rankings. But previously generous support of science in the Netherlands is showing signs of erosion. Earlier this year, the Dutch government said that, owing to financial constraints, next year’s university budgets will be frozen at 2011 levels.
Streamlining research activities and creating joint student programmes will help avoid duplications and thus save costs, Paul van der Heijden, chairman of the University of Leiden’s Executive Board on Monday told faculty members and students. But the three universities are also considering the option to merge into one mega-institution, said Pauline van der Meer, chairwoman of Erasmus University’s Executive Board.
The government supports the plan but, according to news reports (in Dutch), remains sceptical about the possibility of a merger (which would require a change of the Dutch university law).
‘We are asking the institutions to be more critical in choosing what they should continue to do and, in particular, what they should stop doing. We cannot excel at everything, and we have to make optimal use of our academic strengths," Halbe Zijlstra, Secretary of State of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science states in a policy document that will be discussed in parliament on 26 September.
“We therefore expect decisive steps from the institutions in what is a continuous process of concentrating their efforts within core areas of activity. The institutions are also expected to enter into even more intensive collaborations.”
Picture source: Wikipedia