Chair of the Executive Board Pauline van der Meer Mohr had hoped never to reorganize again when she started to work on the university. Unfortunately, she says, that is inevitable, to keep being able to invest.
Why is the reorganization necessary?
“Predominantly because we want, and wanting is not all of it, but have to keep investing in better research and education. In the budget we have been reserving a figure of 17 million euros as so-called free room for the Executive Board to invest; that is a minimal amount and we want to keep it this way.
“At the same time, more and more youngsters go to HBO and WO institutions (universities of applied sciences and universities), while the state-funded budget remains the same, which means that we get less per student. In addition, salary and price inflation is not compensated for, and have to be absorbed in the current budget.
“An additional factor is that in this university we do in fact expect to attract relatively fewer students in the coming years, because we are in a region with a lower educated population than for example Amsterdam. And in practice it shows that as regards Dutch students, we have to rely on our own region for the most part. Aside from that, we are aiming for qualitative growth: not the attraction of as many students as possible, but the right students. That will lead to a loss in market share and, with that, income.
“In short: if we want to keep the 17 million free room available to invest, we have to cut costs elsewhere.”
What does the Executive Board invest in?
“The past years we have spent the money on excellent research which had just missed the financing from NOW or other subsidy providers. But think also of the establishing of new bachelor programs like the University College, the cooperation with Leiden and Delft, N=N, and making the campus more attractive. If you don’t invest yourself, you are dependent on third parties and then things will be very sober.
“The coming years we will invest 17 million euros per year in six strategic programs, for example centering around study success, digital learning, and increasing the impact of research.”
Could the university not decrease the investments for a couple of years?
“No. Simultaneously, we have the time to perform the reorganization very carefully and widely spread. We have enough reserves to finance programs of outflow, for example. We don’t have to let go 110 FTEs in one day to keep being able to invest. Until 2018 we have the time to guide people on their way out. So if you’re retiring in three years, you don’t have to fear that you must leave prematurely all of a sudden now. We try to make it as painless and careful as possible.”
In what way will it be determined who will have to leave?
“The most important thing is natural course. Beyond that, we will in the first instance, stimulate mobility within the university and try to look whether people who are redundant can perhaps join in new projects that we are working on. We want to prevent forced layoffs as much as possible.”
Could the EB not have foreseen this?
“We knew we would be in a bit of a bind in a few years. It was known that the decreasing numbers of students was coming our way. That’s why we have carefully investigated all scenarios. Budget cuts have been implemented – more under the radar – before. Very quietly this institution has seen an increase in efficiency which squeezed out everything from the current budgets. Starting under BV2013 there has been looked at what functions should or should no longer be fulfilled. Faculties have been tighter in their management as well.”
You have in the past reorganized more often in employers in business. What do you take with you from that experience?
“Nobody likes to reorganize. When I started to work here, I thought: ‘Great, now can I start investing instead of reorganizing.’ But unfortunately, I have to reorganize here as well. I always aim for carefulness. We will not trifle with people; we will not tomorrow randomly start taking jobs from people who still have them today. As the Board we will always provide solid background with our decisions and be transparent in our choices. That’s how I’ve always done it and how I will do it now as well.”
But with carefulness comes inertia, while people during a reorganization will quickly want to know what awaits them.
“It will go as fast as it can and as careful as it needs to go. We are going to guide people from work to work inside or, if needed, outside the university. In doing so, we will invest in schooling where needed.”
What do you ask from employees?
“That they take active responsibility for their own future. And that they will not take a possible layoff personally, because that will for nobody be the case. But that is more easily said than done.”
We’re counting 110 FTEs which will disappear, and 13 million euros in measures. What is the chance of things getting worse?
“We have a reasonably ordered financial planning, but we have to realize that we are working with scenarios. If the cabinet will fall, for example, and the next government will decide to spend most of its education budget on primary education and preventing premature dropouts in MBO, then the thunderstorm-scenario will come into play. In that case you really have to start thinking in terms of shrinking, for example in the number of educations. Until that time, we will work with the chosen scenario and we will, I think, be kept sharp by, amongst others, the Universtiy Council, which holds a great deal of expertise.” WG.