Plasterk: Europe is lagging behind academically
4 September 2007 , UTRECHT (ANP) – In the academic world Europe is a developing country. Minister of Education Ronald Plasterk said this on Monday at the opening of the academic year. Plasterk (PvdA) feels that Europe should learn from the universities in the US and the United Kingdom.
4 September 2007
UTRECHT (ANP) – In the academic world Europe is a developing country. Minister of Education Ronald Plasterk said this on Monday at the opening of the academic year. Plasterk (PvdA) feels that Europe should learn from the universities in the US and the United Kingdom.
The hierarchical structure of the European universities has ‘in a few decades put an end to the leading position that Europe held in the scholarly world,’ Plasterk argues.
To raise scientific research to the highest level, excellent and young researchers should be given more scope, Plasterk maintains. “Most discoveries that were awarded Nobel Prizes
were done by people under 30 and almost never by people over 40.”
Not the professors nor the members of the board but the young top talents themselves should determine what they want to research, according to Plasterk. Plasterk recently decided to allocate the budget for scientific research differently. In the future more money will be allocated to grants for young scholars.
The minister was surprised by the criticism expressed by the universities because the total budget remains the same. What’s more, universities no longer need to contribute to these scholarships. In addition, Plasterk promised that a lot of money would be freed up for research on Budget Day.
Not only in the area of research did Plasterk refer to a developing country. “The Netherlands along with Botswana scores lowest when it comes to female professors,” Plasterk commented.
The call to encourage excellent students and researchers is widely supported. “If we want economic growth in the Netherlands it is important to cherish people who are extraordinary, reward high performance and not accept mediocrity as a standard,” VVD faction leader Rutte said.
All the presidents of the universities pay attention to excellence at the opening of the academic year. President of University of Utrecht Yvonne van Rooy pointed out that the universities in France and Germany are already offering highly talented students ample possibilities to excel.
Paul van der Heijden, rector magnificus of Leiden University and his counterpart Frank van der Duyn of Tilburg University want to attract more outstanding students from abroad.
Minister of Education, Maria van den Hoeven, feels that more foreign students increase the competition between top talents. The Netherlands should pursue the example set by New Zealand and Australia where at least 10 percent of the students come from abroad.
The number of foreign students is increasing in the Netherlands but “their numbers do not yet exceed 5 percent. And whether coincidence or not: the percentage of excellent students is also considerably lagging behind compared to other countries”.
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende will call for more excellence and entrepreneurship at the University of Wageningen today. In his speech at the opening of the academic year he will outline his views on the future of the Dutch economy and society.
“The current level of affluence is not a matter of course. A lot of effort is needed to maintain and raise this level. To achieve this we need know-how, innovation and entrepreneurship. Students and universities should not accept fair or average results and make mediocrity the rule. We need to leave the mentality of mediocrity behind us and let entrepreneurship flow through our veins,” according Balkenende.
[Copyright Expatica +ANP 2007]
Subject: Dutch news