Before scientists filled the afternoon with presentations about their research and collaborations, the Erasmus University Executive Board used the opportunity to highlight the university’s dire financial position

Financial basis

The university relies on student enrolment for most of its income, which is why the university is ‘bursting at the seams’, explained Rector Magnificus Annelien Bredenoord. “In the first four months in my position I noticed that the Rotterdam no-nonsense mentality prevails here, and you don’t hear much about WOinActie, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have a backlog of things that need doing and we really need to get the financial basis in order.”

minister Robbert Dijkgraaf en college van bestuur EUR Brinksma Van Schoten Bredenoord
The executive board of Erasmus University with minister of Education Robbert Dijkgraaf. Image credit: Levien Willemse

Executive Board member Ellen van Schoten backed up the university’s current issues with figures. For instance, in 2019, 2020 and 2021 EUR suffered a loss, and that will also continue this year, as the university considers it vital that it continues to invest. And the fixed budget (the fixed amount that a university receives regardless of student numbers, expressed in a percentage of the total) for EUR is the lowest of all universities in the Netherlands. Can something be done about that? EUR also has one of the most uneven ratios of students to staff, ‘a ratio that’s not acceptable’, emphasised Executive Board chairperson Ed Brinksma.

International Students

There have been major increases in student numbers for many years, partly because so many international students come to the Netherlands, and figures on the numbers of enrolled students confirmed that again on Monday. This growth was delicately brought to the attention of the minister and his entourage. “We really need an instrument to control that growth”, Brinksma explained further. “We’re certainly not in favour of such things as shutting down study programmes for internationals, because that international classroom is something we want, but we’re currently unable to influence the numbers”, added rector Bredenoord.

Dijkgraaf listened attentively and is very aware of the issues facing universities. He promised to do something about this in the coming term of government. According to the minister, the coalition agreement’s pledged five billion for ‘free and unconstrained research and development’ will certainly offer ‘calm and space’. How the puzzle will be solved further in the coming period remains to be seen, but EUR’s much criticised and too low fixed budget is certainly also on the table, according to the minister.