We finally know the amounts paid by Dutch universities to academic publishers. After two Freedom of Information Act (Wob) requests, the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) has published the costs paid per university and per publisher. These amounts had so far remained confidential because of confidentiality clauses in the contracts with the publishers concerned.

Universities pay almost 12 million euros to publisher Elsevier. In 2011, the sum was only 10 million euros, but the rate rose substantially within a period of two years. Other publishers receive less but it mounts up considerably in the end. Whereas it cost universities 36 million euros for access to academic journals in 2011, this increased to 43 million in 2015. On top of this, they pay in excess of 7 million euros for books on an annual basis.

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) paid almost 3 million euros for academic journals in 2015. Utrecht University pays the most and Tilburg University pays the least. This has, of course, to do with the size of the university in question and the fields of study involved.


The cost of academic journals has been in the spotlight for quite a while. Critics find it odd that universities have to pay for journals when their own scholars fill them with articles – certainly when the articles then disappear behind a paywall.

The cabinet ultimately wants universities to switch to a system of open access: then they will no longer pay for a subscription, but for a publication in a journal. That publication will subsequently be freely accessible to everyone.

Publishers took matter to court

Universities have recently achieved an agreement with various publishers on the provision of scientific articles free of charge. This will cost the universities themselves money: they will pay publishers an amount to provide these ‘open access’ articles. A former librarian at TU Delft is trying to trace the contracts in which these amounts were agreed by invoking the Freedom of Information Act (Wob). Elsevier and Springer, two of the largest academic publishers, took the matter to court to prevent these contracts from being made public.