The final decision on the collaboration between the universities of Leiden, Delft and Rotterdam has definitely not been made. The Executive Board denies they had earlier chosen to merge.
‘We are looking for the type of cooperation that fits best with our wishes to form a powerful entity that benefits us, among other things, in terms of attracting international research and talent’, comments Pauline van der Meer Mohr, Chairwoman of the Executive Board, in reaction to an article in the NRC Handelsblad of the 22nd of July. This article stated that the three universities, who have been engaged in cooperation talks since the end of 2010, would merge.
Exclude no possibility
A legal merger is the most extensive form collaboration that is being considered. In the short term this does not seem possible, legally or politically. However, Van der Meer Mohr does not wish to exclude any possibility: ‘Simply because I do not know yet what is feasible and what all three parties prefer most.’ What is clear is that the three universities of South Holland are looking at an extensive and exclusive cooperation.
Van der Meer Mohr does not wish to reveal more information. This would only ‘add to the confusion’ and she will present a ‘sound plan’ when the time is right. ‘I may not be ready to make a statement during the opening of the academic year on the 5th of September either. I will however present the case and give the reasons for the necessity of this cooperation.’
‘Flirting with each other’
Chairwoman Pauline van der Meer Mohr said in April that the scientists were constantly seeking each other out: ‘Flirting with each other to see what the possibilities are.’ The cooperation talks are inspired by the possibility to score higher in international rankings together and the government’s wish that universities should collaborate more.
For now talks and negotiations are well under way behind closed doors. The Executive Boards still need to discuss the matter of finding the right form with their supervisory boards, study counsellors and each other.
Caution is of the essence. After the publication in NRC a heated debate ignited in the political and academic realm, weighing the usefulness and uselessness of the three universities endeavour.
Change of law required
The past months the government in The Hague has been engaged in order to sway the political arena in favour of the project. The parliament would have to change a law in order to make a merger possible. All leaders of parliamentary groups and ministers – including the Prime Minister – have had talks with the universities decision makers.
Meanwhile the collaboration between the universities is carefully being put into practice. A professor for the new bachelor (PEDAGOGIE) has for instance been appointed a simultaneous position at Rotterdam and Leiden. And just before the summer the University Council has approved the creation of the study nano biology by the Erasmus MC and TU Delft. WG (image: BvdS)
What’s in a name?
It is being denied that the cooperative venture between the three universities would receive the name Leiden University, as had been stated by the NRC Handelsblad. An agency is currently working on the right branding of the three universities.
It is said that the name was one of the first issues that came forward during talks – that have been ongoing since end 2010 – between the three universities. Neither of the institutes would want to lose its brand, carefully crafted over time. Especially in Leiden (the Netherlands oldest university, founded in 1575) this is a delicate subject. TU Delft traces its roots back to 1842. The Erasmus University was born out of the Dutch Merchant College, which was founded in 1913.
It is not the first time that the universities of Leiden, Delft and Rotterdam are considering extensive collaboration. An attempt in the eighties had yielded a new name: The Corbulo University, name after a Roman general from the beginning of our calender who had his troops dig a canal between the Maas and the Rhine. GM