The Executive Board has asked both representative bodies for their opinion, but the councils don’t have the right to endorse the decision, so they can’t vote down the merger plans. The University Council does have this right and will meet to discuss the merger on 11 June. Trade union consultation body EUROPA has also not consented to the ‘accelerated procedure’ for the merger requested by the Executive Board.

The ESHCC council sent a letter Tuesday in which it ‘fully rejects’ the proposed merger. According to council members, the merger plans don’t adequately clarify the reasons for the merger, or its objective. They also believe that the matter is being rushed without following proper procedures. In the letter, chair Ana Uribe Sandoval proposes exploring multiple future scenarios for ESHCC and ESSB together with the Executive Board. These scenarios would involve both options, where the organisations would merge into a single faculty or where they would continue as separate entities. In May and June, the ESHCC council has organised various meetings for students and staff to consider new plans for education, research, students and support.

ESSB has ‘serious reservations’

During the ESSB council meeting on Thursday, chair Jacko van Ast stated that his council could not yet give a positive recommendation, and explained the four most significant reasons for the council’s stance. First, the council doesn’t believe a merger is possible through the accelerated procedure the Board has requested. “That type of procedure is actually meant for merging two entities without any consequences. It’s not appropriate in this situation.” Second, Van Ast sees limited benefits for his faculty, and many drawbacks. “The merger will create a very large, pluralistic faculty with a huge number of study programmes. All this will take place just after our organisation has undergone a drastic reorganisation.”

A third issue is that the council has concerns regarding ESHCC’s lack of confidence in the plans. More than a hundred employees spoke out against the merger, and there are misgivings with respect to interim-Dean Dymph van den Boom. “We need to be able to do our own due diligence. We’re hearing a lot about this faculty, but the information is contradictory at times. That causes a lot of anxiety.” Finally, Van Ast explains that ‘no one is really that enthusiastic’ about the merger at ESSB. The council will issue a formal letter next week.

EUROPA sceptical of accelerated procedure

The trade union consultation body EUROPA has not yet formally been asked for its consent. That will be done only after the University Council has approved the merger plan. However, EUROPA chair Roel Pieterman has informally said that he personally has ‘major doubts’ with regard to using the ‘accelerated procedure’, should the Executive Board request this.

An accelerated procedure is a stripped-down version of a reorganisation that can only be used if all the ramifications are manageable in advance, if there are no drastic consequences involved, and if the change will be completed within six months. It may appear like that’s the case if the faculties will ‘merely’ undergo an administrative merger, but Pieterman feels that Dean Van den Boom’s plans entail much more than just an administrative merger.

Added value first

“The Executive Board’s intention is that following an administrative merger on 1 August 2019, an additional 18 months (until 2021, ES) will be needed to further develop the plan. So in their eyes, the merger itself is quite simple, but in my opinion their view is much too simplistic. After all, it’s going to involve changes in research and education at both faculties. We would prefer to see the process reversed. Give us insight into the added value of the changes first, and then proceed with the merger, or take it off the table if there is no clear added value.”

Pieterman supports the idea of first forging new plans with staff and students before thinking about what kind of organisational structure would be most appropriate. “In that case I think the Executive Board’s objective of launching new programmes in a revamped organisation in 2021 would be quite feasible.”