Voorzitter College van Bestuur
In: Uncategorized7 Oct 2011
This week saw an interesting parliamentary debate over large scale mergers in our sector. Sparked by the history of InHolland (one of the 52 universities of applied sciences in this country), and by the recent announcements of various universities about their alliance plans, Parliament engaged in a debate around the desirability of mergers. The overriding sentiment in politics is negative. Mergers are seen as monstrous processes creating institutions which are too large and too complex to handle, and are perceived as detrimental to the quality of higher education. In an interview with newspaper Trouw, I had an opportunity to react. My view is that this debate is premature, and Parliament is missing a point. The point they are missing is that the current 52 universities of applied sciences are all bar a few very successful products of mergers. 15 years ago, this country had a spaghetti of over 500 institutes. I don’t think anyone would like to go back to that scale. The 52 current schools are generally efficient and effective, and rated highly by students and accreditation bodies alike. The reason why the debate is premature, is that none of the universities that are currently developing multi-party alliances have announced an intention to merge. Rather they do what they are encouraged and expected to do by the ministry of education: they are looking for ways to combine forces, focus on strengths and develop a distinct regional profile articulated in a joint strategy. The fact that this is currently an open-ended process makes eminent sense to me. We are in the process of shaping strategy, and it would be needlessly limiting to box ourselves into a certain structure. It is the road ahead, the path leading towards the alliance that matters as much as the end product. The train has left the station a few years ago. Now it is accelerating. We can determine when and where it stops. The objectives are clear and simple: improvements in quality of education (on a scale that is as small as possible, and as large as necessary), resource pooling (leading to both additional research funds and cost improvements) and a distinct research profile of world-leading quality, without adding layers of bureaucracy or complexity.
Pauline van der Meer Mohr is president of the Executive Board and is responsible for general administrative matters, such as the relationship with the Board of Trustees and the University Council. She focuses on the strategic policy, international affairs and external contacts, including the Rotterdam region, industry and other knowledge institutions.