One of the employees was fired. All three were reported to the police for grant fraud and forgery, and the contents of the foundation’s bank account were seized. The three academics in question were suspended in March 2019, when concerns arose about the funding of an international Master’s programme for students wanting to provide humanitarian aid in places struck by natural and man-made disasters.

Unbeknownst to the university, the three employees of the Faculty of Humanities had established a foundation for this Master’s programme in 2014. This foundation allowed one of the employees to claim significant amounts of expenses and make additional payments to themselves and others. The foundation concluded contracts with external partners, on RUG letterhead and using RUG stamps, listing the foundation’s bank number.

The university also recognised the personal aspects of the case, which involved people who for many years were ‘tremendously committed’ to the Master’s programme. “However, we cannot but draw the conclusion that rules were broken quite significantly in this matter, and the employees involved must face the consequences,” the President of the university’s Executive Board, Jouke de Vries, said in a statement.

Not the first time it happened

This was not the first time that RUG found itself in hot water due to fraud. In 2016 the then head of the technical management unit was found to have stolen €1.1 million. This employee was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, including a six-month suspended jail term.

Last year, the Education Inspectorate found that the university had wrongly used public money to establish an overseas campus in Yantai, China. This caused RUG to return one million euros’ worth of tax money.

“We realise that such incidents have occurred at RUG before,” said De Vries. “We will use these case studies to show our community that we don’t want these types of things to happen.”