The Hovo students always stood out on the campus: the grey among the green. Each year, around two thousand often older students would enrol in one of between eighty and a hundred Hovo courses that formed part of the Erasmus Academy for post-initial education.
If you had always yearned to know more about Verdi’s operas, the development of the Baltic countries or quantum physics, but never managed to find the time to study, well then, often after retirement, you could go to Hovo, where you could attend lectures given by professors and researchers from different universities.
Now the curtain is falling on the Hovo courses in Rotterdam. Erasmus Academy, where Hovo found its home fifteen years ago, can no longer support it financially. According to the Director of Erasmus Academy, Ad Hofstede, the structural nature of the budget deficits and the lack of a sustainable, profitable outlook are the main reasons behind this decision.
Erasmus Academy belongs to the holding company in which Erasmus University places its commercial activities, and it must therefore be able to cover its costs. When the annual guarantee subsidy of €85,000 from the Executive Board ended five years ago, Erasmus Academy pulled in an extra €700,000 in total. Hofstede explains that this could no longer be sustained.
The pandemic dealt the final blow. It meant the courses were forced to go online, which attracted far fewer participants. Hofstede did consider launching a final attempt with a bridging loan, but this would have been of little consolation, given the persistent pandemic. It is for this reason that the plug was pulled. Ongoing courses will be completed; however, the spring programme, which was almost finished, won’t be going ahead.
Important part of life
Hofstede says he took the decision with pain in his heart. “For an older group of students, Hovo played an important part in their lives. This is also reflected in the reactions to our message. People used to come to the campus, meet each other, and I have heard that some even found love. They come from a generation born just before and after the war, who didn’t take studying for granted and who were able to access academic education through Hovo.”
Hofstede doesn’t entirely disagree with the criticism seen in many reactions that it is ‘typical EUR’ to care more about profit than education. “In my opinion, something like Hovo belongs in a university. Within the framework of the debate on Lifelong Learning, the university certainly needs to make academic education accessible to groups of people that can’t take it for granted. And that doesn’t only apply to the elderly. However, I don’t believe it should be hosted by a company whose main focus is on profit.”
Hofstede stresses that when it comes to Lifelong Learning and development, Erasmus Academy is certain to continue playing a part at the university. “We will continue to offer study programmes and master classes for professionals.”
There is still a glimmer of hope for the loyal students. HOVO Nijmegen recently closed its doors too. HOVO Utrecht and HOVO Brabant subsequently took over the courses in Nijmegen. In addition, there are still HOVOs associated with local higher education institutions in Leiden, Amsterdam and the North of the Netherlands. Hofstede concludes, “Perhaps Hovo could be included in the Lifelong Learning programme run jointly by the universities of Delft and Rotterdam.”