Compared to the principles from the draft version published before the summer, some differences can be observed. Everyone was invited to comment and this was met with enthusiasm because, as the writing committee states, “we were absolutely inundated with feedback and it was often highly detailed”.


All of the feedback lead to a number of amendments. What was missing for example, was a clear reference to the code for academic integrity. This reference has now been added.

It is also interesting to note that a number of institutions found the code to be too detailed and stated that it would unnecessarily limit their autonomy. In some areas this led to amended formulations that provide more scope to institutions themselves”, writes the committee.

That shows in the first principle on the university’s societal remit (namely providing education, conducting research and knowledge transfer). The final version includes, for completeness: “Each university decides on the exact content of this principle based on its own character and identity.”

And which steps should be taken in the event of a dispute between the Executive Board and the Supervisory Board? The draft version suggested the addition of a dispute settlement but that was removed on reflection. Conflict resolution agreements must always be sufficient.

Promote discussion

So what is no longer allowed from the first of January? President of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) Pieter Duisenberg, says that is actually the wrong question. “This code offers tools for proper governance. The purpose of the code is to promote discussion on how the nine principles of good governance should be applied. These are not ‘rules’, strictly speaking.”

He believes the code mainly points to several new topics, such as social security, the governance of partnerships (of which there are more and more) and disputes between board members and supervisors. Mr Duisenberg explains: “These are matters that the code previously did not cover, and the new code makes it clear that management and supervisors need to actively work on this.”

This is also in line with how Professor Jaap van Manen, president of the committee responsible for writing the code, viewed the remit. In July, he said to HOP that “what you hope to achieve with a new code, is to make it easier for various players in governance to talk to each other about what their responsibility entails and what is and what is not possible.”